Back a few years ago, there was a thing that people did on blogs – where are you from? I started it and never finished it, but the part I did stated that I am from quilts, from fabric cut into small pieces and made anew into something better, stronger, more beautiful. I grew up with quilts, watching my mother cut fabric and sew tiny pieces together to make blocks, thread needles and sew tiny stitches to hold the quilt top to the back, lying on the living room floor to pin the back, the batting and the top together.
I made my share of quilts through the years. I started with a piece of fabric that had a Raggedy Ann print, on top of a plain back, quilted in straight lines from one corner to the other. I made a pattern called Grandmother’s Flower Garden for my best friend, another one for a friend’s baby – that one was tiny hexagons sewn by hand.
The last quilt I finished took over 8 years. Quilting was a love I shared with my mother – she used to say that while she was finishing one, she was planning the next. She taught me everything I know about putting a quilt together – about planning, choosing fabric, sewing seams just so.
When she died, I didn’t pick up a needle for 5 years. I had started a quilt, a Double Irish Chain, for my best friend. She got married the weekend before 9/11 – and my mother died a year later. The quilt was pinned, and the quilting was begun. I had to move, from the home I’d called mine for years, but that’s another story. The quilt was rolled and packed, and pulled out a few times, but very little progress was made. It hurt my heart to work on it, and I found excuses to let it lay.
After we moved into the house, and the excuses didn’t really fly any more, I brought it out and finished it. It felt good, it was the closing of a chapter in my life. Or so I thought.
My best friend’s daughter is getting married. I adore that girl, she’s a rotten brat but I love her like she was my own. On impulse, I offered to make her a quilt as a wedding present, and she was thrilled. She chose, of all things, Double Irish Chain.
We chose fabric, I bought some fun things like marking pencils and a template for the squares, floss to sew the corners down, everything I could think I’d need.
Pressing the fabric was the first step. Something about folding the fabric over the ironing board opened a door in my heart, a door that’s been closed for 10 years. Memories have been washing over me for the past week – memories of the snick my mother’s scissors made as she cut fabric on the dining room table, memories of my niece sewing blocks on Mother’s machine, of the three of us pinning her quilt together, tying it off, sewing the borders. A niece who no longer speaks to me, she was such a big part of my life.
I thought the pain would be less as the years went by. And then I cut a piece of fabric – and opened up a wound that will apparently never heal.