The Common Thread
[Previous Rural Farmgirl, April 2009 – May 2010]
Quilts have been on my mind a lot lately. I adore them, and I just don’t think that a person can have too many of them. I am really partial to the ones that have been made with scrap materials and old, cut up, tattered clothing. Not that I don’t like the ones that are gussied up with new fabric—I do. I am just more partial to the other.
Recently a gal showed me one that she made that had panels of a new fabric print pieced in by salvaged fabric materials, and I fell in love. It was so gorgeous and meant so much to her, since the salvaged fabric was made from the shirts of her father, who she had recently lost. She shared that the new panels represented that life goes on, but the salvaged pieces reminded her of the importance to hold onto all that was. I think that quilts should tell a story. There is comfort in knowing that you are wrapped up in comforting memories, like having the arms of those loved ones wrapped around you when the storms of life are blowing.
I am not a quilter, at least not yet, but for some odd reason it seems to be beckoning me. I tried my hand at it once and it was by far one of the hardest things I have ever done. It isn’t that I don’t know how, or that I don’t have help…I do. My sister-in-law is a brilliant quilter. Vicki makes quilting look as easy as breathing. And her quilts are masterpieces. I am not sure I could even guess how many she has made. She and her friend Patty have a darling little quilt shop called Hollyhock Heaven. Hollyhock Heaven is nestled in an old carriage house surrounded by hollyhocks, and that is where Vicki, Patty and my mother-in-law all like to hang out and make their beautiful quilt creations.
I know that my love of “scrappy quilts” came from watching my Grandma Doris and Auntie Wanda. In my grandma’s sewing room she had a dresser, and in the dresser she kept scraps of material from old shirts and completed projects, old jeans and broken-down overalls. She and Auntie Wanda would save up scraps until they had enough to make a quilt. Each of them would sew the tops on their own and then get together and bind them, attach them to a loom, and sit and tie each quilt. I don’t believe that there was a baby born in the church’s congregation who didn’t receive one of those quilts, each with the baby’s name perfectly hand-stitched onto one of the quilt squares. When we were young, many of us didn’t realize what a prize possession we had been given. I am glad that I saved mine.
On a recent plane trip to Wisconsin, I was sitting at the window seat and noticed how much the landscaped looked like beloved patchworks. It brought to mind my dear friend Marie. Chuck and Marie were our neighbors, and we adopted them and they us. Marie never had any kids of her own, but the 70-something woman seemed determined to spoil mine, and we were all too willing to let her do so. Chuck, on the other hand, liked folks to think he was rough and tough, but it didn’t really take us too long to see that it was all a cover. He is a teddy bear. Marie and I quickly connected since we loved so many of the same things. And my hubby and Chuck did as well. They found a common love of rebuilding old cars and refurbishing antiques. As I was sitting on the plane and looking out over the patchwork landscape below me, my first instinct was to call Marie. Like me, she had a passion for quilts, and her collection of over 400 proved it. I knew that the scene I was seeing would speak to her, and I wanted to share it with her. But Marie has been gone for almost three years now, and every quilt I see brings her memory flooding back to me.
Last weekend as I was walking around a quilt show with some of my Farmgirls friends, I could sense Marie everywhere. I caught myself so many times saying, “Oh Marie, look at this one!”
I have determined to make at least one more quilt in her honor. Before her surprise passing, we had decided that we would do it together, both of us knowing full well that the laughter alone would be worth the experience. Her memory reminds me of the “scrappy quilts” that Grandma Doris and Auntie Wanda make—the kind where they place together two materials that you wouldn’t put together in any other setting, yet in the quilt they work. My friendship with Marie was to some a scrappy quilt. But I knew it was held together by the common thread of the love of life, and living, and loving, and beautiful quilts.