Tag: quilt

A Handmade Christmas

Seems  like it was 3 years ago, yet the calendar say it was a mere 3 weeks ago when the family gathered together for a week of hilarity, memory making, and opening. Last year I stole minutes here and there from The 70273 Project to make some gifts for giving.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care . . .

When Mom was a baby, her mother took her to visit one of her grandmothers. Mother reached down and grabbed a tiny fistful of the lace collar on her grandmother’s blouse. “This baby is gonna’ like pretty things,” the grandmother correctly predicted, so Mother’s stocking was made with flowers to reflect her flourishing green thumb and topped with lace.

My daughter-in-law, Marnie, is an art historian who enjoys art that’s so old it makes my head hurt. Before our trip to see The Bayeux Tapestry several years ago, Marnie gave me enough background information that I should’ve gotten college credit hours. Her stocking was topped with embroidered trim depicting a section of The Bayeux Tapestry.

When my daughter was born, I took her stocking to the hospital with me and added the last element – her name  – after she was born and before we brought her home.

Fourteen months later, I did the same thing with my son’s stocking, taking it to the hospital to add his name once we knew whether we were the proud parents of a girl or a boy.

The Engineer’s grandmother, we called her Maw – made a quilt of old suits once worn by The Engineer’s grandfather, Pops. Though I could’ve repaired the quilt, I chose to make The Engineer a stocking from it.

Calder Ray celebrated his first Christmas in 2016. I used colors from Alexander Calder’s artist palette to make the fabric for my grandson’s stocking, cuffing it with some wool fabric from Ireland, and Calder Ray did just what you’d expect a seven month old to do: he chewed on it.

Remember I told you how Marnie likes ancient art and how knowledgeable and enamored she is with The Bayeux Tapestry? Well, this year I put the quilting frame down and picked up the wool to do a needlepoint canvas of one of the scenes from The Bayeux Tapestry. After finishing  it, I could not decide what to do with it. Should I frame it?  They don’t really have that many available walls, so maybe not. Make a pillow? That would mean cording, and I am not good at cording, so no. When I spied the adorable little stool with the hinged lid in the antique store, I knew what to do, so now Marnie has a footstool, covered with a needlepoint scene from The Bayeux Tapestry and a wee little bit of storage space to boot. (I just hope their new, rambunctious Border Collie, Harper, who has a hankering for gnawing on wooden furniture, never discovers the wood underneath the needlepoint.)

With visions of not sugarplums, but with dreams of a ritual of the quilt being pulled out every December 1 and slept under till the New Year, I made Calder Ray his Christmas quilt, not to hang on the wall, but to use. I’ll show you better, fuller photos later when I’m finished quilting it (Yes, I gifted it to him partly quilted and partly basted) so you can see that branches and needles of the red tree (I’ll explain the red later, too) are in the shape of my hands, and the trunk is in the shape of Calder Ray’s feet.

The body of the angel that perches at the top of the red tree is made of drawings of Calder Ray’s feet, and her wings are made from drawings of Calder Ray’s pudgy, recently-discovered 7-month old hands. Her raiments are from a napkin The Engineer found for me in a local thrift shop.

You know, 4.5 decades ago, I made everybody’s Christmas gifts as a matter of economy – as newlyweds, we didn’t have money to spend buying a lot of presents – and I remember getting a note from my sister-in-law saying that she felt like the lucky one because while The Engineer bought his brother a nice gift, hers was handmade. Her words didn’t really mean all that much then, but now, when I snuggle under the quilt my grandmother made, when I look at the crewel work my mother stitched, when we hang those handmade ornaments on the tree, I understand and offer up a wee little wish that Calder Ray and his parents put these things in their cherish column one day, too.

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pieces of peace

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my grandmother made quilts – one for everybody in the family.

she’d swap fabric scraps with neighbors, decide on a pattern, then dump the accumulated fabric bits out on the bed, make her selections, and start cutting. she consulted with us about our preferred color for the flannel backing fabric, but she and she alone made the decision on fabric for the quilt tops based mostly – okay, solely – on what fabrics she had in hand.

she used a sewing machine – an old treadle machine – to sew the pieces together into blocks then the blocks together into the top. one the top was assembled, she’d sandwich batting between the quilt top and flannel backing and stitch those together, the machine whirring it’s irregular rhythm. the very last thing she did once the quilting was done and the borders finished off, was embroider our name in a corner of the quilt, and that she did by hand.

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honestly, the quilts weren’t all that special to us. we figured quilting was just something grandmother did to keep busy. my mother used our quilts to wrap furniture when she moved it out to redecorate and as beach towels when we went to the ocean and as dog beds on cold winter nights. when they got dirty, she’d throw them in the washing machine then hang them on the line to dry.

a few years ago i decided to catalog grandmother’s quilts and asked my cousins, aunts, and uncles to bring their quilts to be photographed. when we held the first one up to the backdrop of the woods and stepped back to have a look, there was an audible collective inhale followed by the most exquisite silence – the silence of respect and appreciation and love-in-a-new-light.

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my quilt is in the velveteen stage of life, loved raw in places, the batting spilling out and making a mess all over the place. i’ve thought about mending it, but, shoot, i’ve never gotten around to it. i ought to, though, because let me tell you one thing: some of the most peaceful moments i’ll ever know are enjoying that deep, peaceful, falling-off-the-edge good sleep that comes only on the nights when grandmother’s quilt is wrapped around me. mmm mmm mmm. all those tiny little pieces. painstakingly cut, arranged, then stitched together into something bigger. something much, much bigger.

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#best09
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the story is mine, but credit for the kindling goes to gwen bell and her best of 2009 blog challenge.
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