In a recent blog post I talked about realizing that an old, scrappy delectable mountains UFO I thought I might finish to donate to a charity had become too meaningful over the passing years to give away owing to the fabrics I had used. This quilt, and the story behind it, is largely responsible for that change of heart.
I blogged about this quilt when I finished it back in February 2011 but I didn’t include many details or a photo, as my mother was a regular reader of the QN blog at the time and the quilt was still in transit to my parents’ house. If you read the blog post, you can see the comment she left at the bottom after it had been received. At the time it didn’t have the name you see in the caption of the photo above, Jim & Nora Sittin’ in a Tree, a title that only came to me recently.
This quilt started out as the project for a traditional hand applique class I took at my favorite quilt shop circa 1996-1997, not long after I started my first full-time job and not long before I moved out of my parents’ home into an apartment. When picking fabric, I think the navy blue leaf print that I used in the borders jumped out at me because it reminded me of the couch in my parents’ living room that we’d had since I was little. I chose the other fabrics to coordinate with it and decided I would make the finished project – originally supposed to be a large wall hanging – for my parents.
I didn’t complete the reverse applique on what is now the inner border until months after the class ended, after which my life’s focus shifted and I stopped quilting for a few years. I got back into quilting circa 2004, which is when I added the mitered borders to make it more of a small throw quilt and got started on the hand quilting. Again, life intervened and the quilt went back into the UFO pile until I resumed quilting it in autumn 2010, not long after I’d started working for Quilters Newsletter. I finally finished it in February 2011 and promptly sent it to my parents, who put it on display over a chair in their living room, where I’d sat to do the bulk of the applique and next to the couch that inspired it.
My parents have both since died, and so the quilt is mine again. It’s not the only thing I ever made for them but it was certainly the largest and most time-consuming. I know my mother in particular was proud of the work I’d done (her initial reaction to my fabric choices was, “Blue for the leaves? That’s … interesting.”). Even though they never used it – there isn’t much call for lap quilts in Los Angeles – it served its intended purpose, which was to let them know how much I loved and appreciated them.
So that’s the story behind this quilt, and part of the story behind my delectable mountains UFO. The navy-blue-and-rust palette that my parents picked out one day decades ago when shopping for a new affordable couch has become one that I will forever associate with them and with their home — our home — and that I have now incorporated into my own home. While the quilt itself may not be objectively considered heirloom-quality, I have the sense it has begun its transformation into a family heirloom, something imbued with memories of people and places that have passed for current and future generations to live with and appreciate.
This quilt is part of the “Quilts from Within” exhibit that’s traveling with Original Sewing & Quilt Expo shows for the next year, having made its debut at the America Quilts EXPO in Iowa over Memorial Day Weekend. If you go to an OSQE show and see it on display, tell it “Hi” from me. Click here to see the full calendar of upcoming Original Sewing & Quilt Expo shows around the country.
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