One Skirt, Two Quilts

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My grandmother was an amazing quilter. She had such a knack for putting colors and fabrics together that I have often envied her talent. Over the years I have acquired several quilts she made. Some were gifts for birthdays or weddings and some were just Gran cleaning house and downsizing her belongings.

No matter how they came to me I love each and every one. They are simple patterns, not the elaborate works of art you see from quilters these days. The fabrics used were old flour sacks, sugar bags, worn out clothes that my mom and Aunt wore as little girls, and remnants from the fabric store where my grandmother worked for more than 50 years. They are time capsules of color and texture that have kept me warm and reminded me of days when self-sufficiency was as common as summer heat and not a strange concept.

Quilting is a new skill for me. I started a few years ago with a simple rail fence pattern made from flannel, for my daughter. Unfortunately, I was never able to work on a quilt with my grandmother or have her teach me her special tricks of the trade; we lived too far apart for that. Like cooking from scratch, tending livestock or managing DIY project, quilting (and sewing) is one of those useful homestead skills that everyone should learn. With a few basic sewing skills like measuring, cutting and sewing a straight line you can turn previously unusable fabric into something that will keep you warm on a cold winter’s night.

I think that’s what I love most about quilting; the stories it can tell, the people it can touch, the hominess and warmth it can bring. My quilts will never win a prize at the county fair or be the envy of the ladies at the quilt guild, but they will remind my daughter and I of times spent together, of places we have gone and adventures we have had. You can wrap yourself up in a warm quilt and breathe in the memories.

Since finishing my first quilt, I have made 4 others, also simple patterns that remind me of simpler times and days when everything was repurposed into something useful.

The quilts in the picture are a prefect example. The quilt on the right is a completed quilt that lays on my bed. It is a play on the 9-patch Pizzazz pattern. A play mainly because it has 12-patches, instead of 9, in between the larger pieces of fabric that show off the sheep scene. The Little Boy Blue quilt on the left is a recently finished quilt top that still needs to be assembled, pinned, quilted, and bound before it can be used.

Both quilts are made from a pastoral sheep print skirt I bought on a driving trip from Colorado, down through New Mexico and on into California. I loved the fabric so much that when I stopped wearing the skirt I kept it, knowing that someday I would make it into a quilt. And I did.

One skirt, two quilts, a mom and her daughter warm in their beds, wrapped up in memories.

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