The Story Quilt

I’ve been working on a very special quilting project this winter.

I call it the story quilt.

I didn’t piece the top together – I don’t know who did. My friend Amanda discovered it at a craft show.

But as soon as I saw it – I knew how special it was and I volunteered to quilt it for her.

This is a vintage quilt.

A scrap quilt.

A quilt that my grandma would have made.

A quilt that tells a story.

Each square is a bit of fabric that holds a memory for someone – carefully saved bits of cloth that when sewed together become a piece of personal history.

It’s a quilt that spans generations – a time capsule of style and fabrics.

Vintage cotton from the 1940’s.

Checked gingham from the 1950’s.

Fun prints from the 60’s.

Polyester from the 70’s.

And even a few calico pieces from the prairie looks of the 1980’s.

All sewn together – with no rhyme or reason.

A delicate dotted Swiss next to a sturdy denim next to fake wool next to a piece of a work shirt like my grandpa wore – so faded and paper thin that I worry my quilting stitches are the only things that hold it to the quilt.

Bright 1970’s colored print next to a mustard and brown stripe next a pink floral next to a juvenile cowboy print.

Every square vaguely familiar as if I’ve seen it before.

These patches of fabric aren’t from my life – but I can see them in it. Their colors and textures and designs are all woven through-out the times and places that I’ve been.

Memories come flooding back as I hand quilt each square.  This Raggedy Ann print reminds me of my curtains as a child. My sister has a skirt in a plaid similar to this one.  That piece of blue cotton looked so much like Grandma’s house dress that I cried.

This quilt is special – a work of art.

Not because of how it’s put together – the squares are uneven and the whole thing buckles and curves – but because of what it contains.

Hundreds of stories. Millions of connections. A patchwork of history.

People don’t make quilts like this any more.

Maybe we should.

The Big Picture

My quilt project this year is rather unique.

Normally when I make a quilt block you can see the quilt’s design – Ohio star, log cabin, 9 patch.

But these quilt blocks look odd – almost like a mistake.

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It’s only when you put them together that you see the pattern.

Each individual quilt block becomes a part of the bigger picture.

Stars are formed.

Random squares are joined to make paths and outline.

Each individual block makes sense when it becomes a part of the whole.

IMG_3279So often there are seasons in life that are just like my quilt blocks – on their own they don’t make sense.

They look odd and out of context.

They seem to be a mistake.

We wish we could design them differently – rearrange the situations, change the outcomes, make each one pretty in it’s own way.

But God – the master Designer – saw the big picture.

He knew how the individual parts would come together.

He would make the shadows into stars.

And define them with light.

A perfect plan.

 

Pedro’s Quilt

DSC_0089It’s done.

I finished it.

Pedro’s quilt is on his bed.

It’s not perfect.

Actually – it’s full of mistakes.

But it’s also full of love.

And dreams.

And prayers for his future.

Pedro graduates in less than three weeks and my role as his teacher will end.

But I will always be his mom.

No matter where he journeys in life –  he will take a part of my heart with him.

And this quilt.

I hope.

…And it is Finished – Finally

quilt

The quilt is finished.

Finally.

It was the first solo quilt project I started after a beginners quilting class over 20 years ago.

Each piece was hand cut and hand stitched.

I spent hours of my first pregnancy stitching my way through morning sickness, doctor’s visits, back pain, and heartburn.

I finished the piecing, struggled with the sashing, and started hand-quilting it together.

It was at this point I got tired and frustrated.  I had measured a little wrong – okay a lot wrong – and it wasn’t laying right.

I gave up, tucked the unfinished quilt in a box and promised myself I would finish it after the baby was born.

Fast forward 20 years, 5 kids, and 2 moves later. I found the quilt in that same box – with the quilting needle in the middle of a stitch, exactly where I left it.

As I picked the quilt up and smoothed it out – I knew I had to finish it. I found my quilt frame and picked up where I left off, finally putting the final stitches in the binding this week.

It’s not perfect – not by a long shot. Those imperfections didn’t magically disappear as it sat in storage.

No – the quilt didn’t change – but I did. I was finally ready to look past the mistakes and see the beauty.

I was ready to accept it for what it was and appreciate the lessons it taught me.

That sometimes we have to work with what we have.

That if we focus on the negative we often lose sight of the positive.

That if you just take a step back, and get the bigger picture, the little things don’t seem as important.

This first quilt will never win any prizes – but in my heart it will always be a work of art – a visual reminder of the life lessons it’s taken me 20 years to learn.

A Quilt Adventure

It was during a random conversation between my niece and I about our shared interest in quilting that the idea for a quilt trip was formed.

And it – as some ideas do – stretched and changed until it became a reality last weekend.

Group Picture

My mom, Angel Girl, one sister,2 nieces, and I traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska to explore the International Quilt Study Center and Museum at the University of Nebraska.

Although not everyone in our group were quilters – we all appreciated the beauty and history of the quilts displayed.

I loved the old quilts the best – the ones carefully cut out of old garments or the bits and pieces of left-over material.

Everyone chose a favorite. Angel Girl chose a autograph quilt from the 1930’s which included autographs from the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University.

Quilt

After fully immersing ourselves in quilts for several hours – we decided that it was past time for lunch.

Our criteria – something unique that we wouldn’t get at home.

After much deliberation – our choice was The Pho Factory – a brand new Vietnamese Restaurant close to the museum.  It was fab-u-lous!

After almost drowning ourselves in noodle bowls bigger than serving bowls, we left with an appreciation for chop sticks and a new addiction to Vietnamese fish sauce. (Well – at least I did!)

We grabbed a bubble tea to go – and were not thrilled to learn that the “bubbles” tasted like black licorice.  The strawberry slushie “tea” part was yummy, though.

By then it was time to get out of Lincoln. The Cornhuskers played at home that night and traffic was getting heavy.

Since most of  Nebraska was in Lincoln at the game,  we headed back to Omaha and my nieces’ favorite bookstore downtown.

Book Store

In a family of bibliophiles – it was like Christmas morning.

Books from floor to ceiling – stacked on chairs, on the floor, in boxes. Thousands of books.

I wanted to touch them all – but I only bought one.

We would still be there if it wasn’t for the lure of Ted and Jerry’s ice cream. With fun flavors like coffee and doughnuts, black raspberry chocolate chunk and Dutch chocolate in hand – we headed back to my nieces for pizza.

And yes – we ate our dessert first.  It was an adventure day after all!  🙂

It was a little later than we planned when we finally headed for home – but we filled the day with fun and memories.

All that because a random conversation sparked an adventure idea.