My quilting started a long time ago. I didn't know at the time that it would become a life-long passion. I was about ten or so, and I was bored.
I hate that word - "bored." When my children said they were bored, my training from my parents was to put the child to work. That was their solution to being bored, but as a parent, I realized that there was more to life than work. I wanted them to enjoy being children and find things they enjoyed doing when they were not working. It seemed like good training for when they became adults. From my own experience, I realized that too many people, when relieved from the daily grind, were lost on what to do with themselves and resorted to drinking or shopping as entertainment. Both, I feel, are not the most productive or fulfilling activities and can lead to an empty wallet and an empty heart.
My youngest son was easily bored. Not one to watch TV, movies or play video games, if it was raining outside or snowing, it made it difficult to placate him. When he said, "I'm BORED!" I would cringe inside. I knew that I needed to guide him to finding ways to fill that empty time that would instill lifelong skills to lead him to a fulfilling, nurturing space. It was a huge responsibility. I soon learned that the only way to placate him was to send him outside – regardless of the weather. He is a lot like his grandfather and finds fulfillment in what others would call work.
My oldest two children were easily entertained. They loved to watch the Discovery Channel, and now joke about their wealth of “useless” knowledge. My oldest son loved video games, and both of the oldest two loved to read. My daughter loved photography and painting.
It was a Sunday when I proclaimed my bored status. I am sure my mother cringed at that responsibility being laid upon her back. Since it was Sunday, work was not required. It was a day of rest, and I am sure my mother wanted a break, too! My siblings all loved to play together outside, but I rarely cared for their activities. I am sure when my mother reached deep into her resources to find something to entertain me that she had no idea how it would change my world.
Out of desperation, she taught me to make patchwork quilts. She gave me a small envelope for my template, the pin cushion and a stack of scraps she had saved from making pajamas for us kids. She showed me how to lay the template on the fabric, taking care not to waste, pin it in place and cut it out. After I had a stack of rectangles, she showed me how to lay them out on her bed to see how they looked. We rearranged them till the pattern was pleasing to us. She then taught me to use her sewing machine, and I sewed the pieces together.
The quilt was tied with orange yarn, something we must have had on hand, and the batting was made from an old blanket. It was the old way of making comforters and quilts. It seems archaic, but I appreciate it today for what it was – a woman’s way of making art from necessity. They used what they had, and they made useful things, but they made them with love and care, taking pride in the end result.
My first scrap quilt was just the right size for my dolls, and I would later use it for my daughter when she was an infant. After I finished the first one, I set about making a twin sized for my own bed.
My quilting was left by the wayside for many years, as friends and school, ball games and school activities took over. After high school, I married and had children, divorced and remarried, moved around the world, and grew up. I didn’t pick quilting back up again, till necessity opened the door once again.
It was the fall of 1989. My husband and I were living on a meager income. Christmas was coming, and I could tell that we would not have a lot of presents for the children under the tree. I decided to make my daughter a personalized quilt. I had lots of scrap fabric, collected over the years, and using the same technique that my mother had taught me when I was ten, I made a large patchwork quilt, used a blanket for the batting, but this time, I machine quilted the blanket to the back, which was a flat sheet I had purchased from the Dollar Store. I appliqued her name on the front, and used eyelet lace to edge it. She still has it today, and she brings it home to be mended, as it is becoming threadbare from use and age.
My best friend, Deirdre, who was also struggling to buy Christmas that year, saw the quilt and decided to make one for her mother. She did not have such a stash of fabrics, so went to the local fabric store to find what she needed to complete her project.
While at the fabric store, Deirdre saw a quilting class advertised. She begged me to take the class with her. I really didn’t feel I should spend the money, but after much begging and pleading, I gave in and splurged. It was at this class that I learned new techniques, and the art of quilting.
Deirdre and I continued on with our quilting. We were two stay-at-home moms. We got together and cut, sewed and quilted together. We planned and dreamed together. Although we had learned to machine quilt our quilts, we were enamored with the idea of hand-quilting, so studied up on it, and experimented with hoops and frames. We aspired to get as many stitches in an inch as we could. Eight to ten is considered good. We achieved ten and were content with that.
Through the years and changes in lifestyles, Deirdre and I lost touch for twenty years. We recently reconnected through Facebook. I was sad to hear that she does not quilt or sew anymore. Deep down she is a true artist. Sometimes, she would wake in the morning and sketch out a quilt pattern that popped into her head in the night. Most of my creations seem to always come from magazines or books.
When my maternal grandmother came to live with my mother for a short period before moving into the nursing home after Grampa died, she and I spent time quilting together. She did all of her work by hand – from the piecing to the quilting. It was a time of bonding that I will treasure forever.
I know where the word “comforter” came from, because the feeling of fabric in my hands and the transformation that takes place through this creative act feeds me and comforts me. It takes me to places that nothing else can. I don’t think I will ever stop quilting. My only hope is to possibly get better with each project.