My grandmother could pull any quilt from her closet (that’s where she kept them) and tell you something about it. One time she pulled one down for me and told me where each fabric had come from, some were clothing that her children had worn. She remembered every piece. Every quilt maker has a story to tell. I want to collect those stories and share them with you.
A Quilt Maker’s Tale is a series featuring stories from my readers about their experiences with quilts. The stories are in the quilt maker’s own words and uses their own pictures. If you’d like to be featured in this series, please have a look here.
Today’s story is from Kathy in Colorado.
I am, and have always been more of a dreamer than doer. This drives me nuts some days, when the house is messy and my mind is full of ideas, then life happens and it all stays the same.
Last year I decided to make some of my Pinterest dreams become reality. I am driven by deadlines and accountability… self motivation can be elusive. Knowing that, I decided to try to gather Instagram friends together for a sew-along. I have watched various sew-alongs and quilt-alongs, without interest. Truly, I barely have time to make the quilt blocks I love, so I had no desire to make blocks I wasn’t passionate about. From this I formed a little known hashtag- #PinterestBOM. A handful of people I interacted with regularly on social media joined the group where we chose our own “Block of the Month” from our own Pinterest pages. I held giveaways of small fat quarter bundles for participants, as a motivator. The idea was to make what we loved, blocks that inspired us, challenged us, or that we just could never do more than a few of without going crazy. I decided to make mine as a sampler quilt, others made whole quilts of one block; some remain in progress… as we quilters do.
I gifted my mom the quilt I made from my first traveling quilting bee. It was a beautiful, rustic sampler style quilt and my aunt Susie immediately informed me she’d love one as well! Very subtle…. Not! This was around the same time I had the #PinterestBOM epiphany, so there was very little effort to connect the dots of who would receive the quilt.
In April 2016, I made my little #PinterestBOM logo and called out for participants to make photo mosaics of quilting hopes and desires! Each month I would post the fabric bundle up for grabs for participants, then would wait to see what everyone made. I loved seeing people finally MAKE things that had been pinned for months, or, ahem, years. This group was the motivation I needed to finally get making, rather than Pinterest dreaming. The group fizzled out by the end of August, but I had my quilt started, so I was happy. Then, as often happens, it became part of my WIP (work in progress) pile.
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In January 2017 we found out my aunt Susie had cancer; the doctors were unsure as to where it had originated and she was quite unwell. Due to a complex medical history, my aunt could have anywhere from a month to years ahead of her. No one could say. I started sewing up her quilt as fast as I could, not knowing if I’d even finish before she passed away. The whole time I was sewing, I was kicking myself that I hadn’t immediately completed what I’d started the year before. I finished the quilt and mailed it to her within the week. That was the start February. And within days she became increasingly unwell, so I flew out to see her. Ironically, my quilt and I arrived the same day, so I was able to deliver it to her myself at the hospital. I briefly showed her some of my favorite parts- a Heather Ross gnome hidden amongst the blocks, my favorite Anna Maria Horner fabrics, some beautiful quotes on the Carrie Bloomston fabric, a Cotton and Steel sloth. It got rolled up to prop up her arm, but I could tell she was touched and loved it.
Despite the initial grim outlook, she got better, went home from the hospital and started treatment for her cancer. My mom told me she was constantly showing off her quilt to visitors; pointing out the special parts I had once pointed out to her. I had started the quilt while she was moving house the previous year, and amazingly, my quilt matched her new home perfectly despite not having seen it at the time!
We are a family of realists and planners. We knew aunt Susie would not survive this cancer and she began making her arrangements. Aunt Susie told my mom and I that she wanted her quilt buried with her, because it was so special, and despite knowing the reality, she wanted it to keep her warm. Every quilter can gasp at the idea of burying a quilt! I was extremely flattered and honored. My aunt was wealthy, she could buy most things she wanted, but my humble quilt was important to her! I took a deep breath and let go of any sadness at the idea of my quilt’s potential resting place. From what I was told, she often napped under it, and then would drag it back to the bedroom at night to sleep under.
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One night in July she when I bed early due to a severe headache, my uncle checked on her a few hours later and found she had passed away. Despite our grief, we were also thankful she passed away, in her sleep, and before she ever became terribly unwell. Arrangements were made and my mom told my uncle of her wishes, to be buried with the quilt. Uncle Al asked if we wouldn’t mind if he kept it, because of how special it had been to aunt Susie during her final months. My mom said she knew of a blanket my nephew had bought for her, which would be an adequate substitute, and we would be happy for him to keep the quilt.
Since becoming an avid quilter within the last handful of years I have almost constantly been involved in quilt block bees or traveling bees. I have cherished these experiences due to building friendships and sewing skills. But it has also meant I haven’t had extra time to finish my own projects for my family, friends, and myself. I will sadly confess- the quilt on my own bed is from IKEA. Life is precious. Life can take unexpected twists and turns. My one goal for the New Year, for 2018, is to finish the WIPs I have started for my loved ones. I don’t want to ever regret not having finished a quilt for someone. As a quilter, I show love in the form of crinkly, quilty goodness. I need to finish my current projects for my best friends, for my bed, for my mom, for my kids; get them to where they belong, then rinse and repeat for the others for whom I have been inspired to make. I have ideas for quilts, I have family “hinting” at getting quilts, I have Pinterest dreams, I have a very scrappy stash- I have to become more of a “doer” in 2018. And now, I have written it down for all to see, not just to dream- let that be the motivator I need!
3 Questions for Kathy
When did you first start making quilts?
The first quilt I made was in high school after seeing a friend make a denim quilt with her grandma. I made one in college for a friend, one for baby shower gift, one for my nephew. Those were over the course of 10 years. It was about the time that was pregnant with my son that I became more interested in quilting. I have been a stay-at-home mom since then, so it is been a great creative outlet.
What quilt are you most passionate about working on currently?
My Gypsy Kisses/ pickle dish quilt. I fell in love with the pattern when I first saw it! It has always been my comfort zone for level of difficulty. But I feel like I have learned so much over the last couple years, that I can finally proceed with confidence!
Name your favorite fabric designer?
Anna Maria Horner!! I love her color palettes and quilting style!
You can connect with Kathy on Instagram here.
What a wonderful story!
What a beautiful yet bittersweet story. Often we don’t realise how much something we make another person means to them.
Thank you Kathy for sharing. So glad you finished the quilt in time for your Aunt and now your Uncle to enjoy it. What a special memory.