Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Quilts on Tuesday- Tradition

I mentioned that I have the first bed sized quilt my mom produced many decades ago. Before I get into the main part of the post I thought I'd show you a quick shot. It hangs over a banister in my foyer so it's one of the first things you see upon entering the front door. It's significant not only because it is her first but because it is patchwork. You'll find out why as you read on.




You've seen the quilt my mother made when I was four and the one she made when I was thirteen. You may be getting the idea that quilts mark milestones in my life. How perceptive of you. The next milestone in my life was high school graduation. Mom told me I could choose any style of quilt I wanted. When I made my choice I think she immediately regretted giving me the option. I wanted a patchwork quilt.

Now understand, as much as my mother loves quilting THAT is the part she loves. She likes the needle work, the rocking of a needle through many layers in order to make lovely patterns with the thread. She does not enjoy cutting bits of fabric into particular and precise shapes, nor does she enjoy sewing those pieces together in exact patterns. She actually dislikes that part and had not made a patchwork quilt in probably twenty years even as she cranked out all manner of applique (which she finds far more forgiving and much more fun than patchwork) and plain top quilts with much stitching.

Did I mention I picked a patchwork pattern with roughly a bazillion pieces to it? I wanted a log cabin quilt. As you can see below, each 10 inch quilt square was made of 17 pieces a fabric. Mom makes quilts big enough to extend down the sides of the bed until about 8 inches before the floor. When she started this quilt for me I only wanted it sized for a double bed. Before she finished making the individual squares for the top I upped it to a queen size because I had gotten engaged. So figure enough of those squares to make a quilt that big. You do the math, it makes my head hurt. It made my mom's head hurt too.

Why did I torment my mother so? Well, I always loved the variety in a patchwork quilt. I loved the idea behind using all sorts of scraps and how so many of them would each have their own story. In the two squares below there are fabrics from old kitchen curtains and from the outfit my mother sewed for me to wear on the day my adoption was finalized. I wanted a very traditional looking quilt where I could have all sorts of wild fabrics bumping up against each other.


In addition to the personal history and wild colors in the fabrics, I just loved the geometry of the thing. You can see each square is divided along a diagonal which separates a dark side from a light side. The varying ways in which the individual squares can be arranged gives a number of different optical effects. Each effect has its own pattern name. I chose the "Barn Raising" arrangement (concentric light and dark diamonds) as a nod to my Pennsylvania Dutch roots. I don't have any idea if the pattern comes from the PA Dutch or not but the name certainly is evocative of a community of Amish coming together to get a job done. The individual squares also vaguely reminded me of a Greek Key pattern so it was a nod to my birth heritage as well.


My mother would work on the quilt and then put it aside for another smaller project she could easily complete before coming back to my seemingly unending quilt. Those of you who are quilters might say she could have rotary cut the strips and sewed it together lickety split and you'd be right. However, neither of us knew of that technique when Mom made this. She cut each piece with scissors instead.

Much as mom loves the hand quilting, by the time she got the top together she was kind of sick of this quilt and I was soon to be married. It had already been 4 or 5 years since I had chosen this pattern. She asked with an air of desperation if I intended for her to hand quilt it or could she just tie it. I had also asked her to use a sheet blanket for the batting instead of the fluffy polyester batting which was a cinch to quilt through. She was not looking forward to trying to hand quilt through all the seams and a blanket. She breathed a great sigh of relief when I told her to just tie it with knots through the center square of each block.


We used the log cabin quilt hard for 15 years. I still think it's a beautiful work but the heavy use took its toll and it, more than any of the others I have, shows its wear. In spite of what I might ask for, Mom once again offered to replace it with a new quilt of my choosing, but in the interim I needed to use a commercial comforter (it did its job of keeping us warm but what a soulless thing it was). I think I may save showing you "the new quilt" until after I've shared some of the others I have lurking around my house.

18 comments:

G-Man said...

Quilts and Chocolate, it sure sounds like Pennsylvania to me!!
Excellent term paper here Limey, You get an A.....

Mona said...

Lime that Quilt sure has 'Soul' It must have so many memories sewn in and is only one of its kind in the whole world! It is priceless! I am in awe of your mom!

NYD said...

I have often heard that there are stories to every quilt and that, because of the time involved in making, them those tales are often long in the telling. Hearing your narrative brigs the quilts to life and lets us see just how thoroughly you are wrapped up in love.


Oh, and that tie-dyed cake? Outta-freakin-sight!!!!!

Cheesy said...

Your Mommers and I would make a fine team! I love the cutting and piecing but put off the constuction! I have maybe 5 or 6 tops done and when my daughter visits she works on putting them together lol.... Love log cabin its one of my favs... it's diamonds i struggle with... Your quilts are just lovely as well as loved!!!

S said...

WOW! I just love the way the log cabin quilt looks from far away! I have never had the patience to make something like that....well ok, maybe once or twice, but surely not over and over!
Plus, I machine quilt when I bother at all. Dont tell!

Lovely stuff!

furiousBall said...

the log cabin quilt is amazing!

Maddy said...

Mums! What would we do without their devotion. I love log cabin. I also made a patchwork quilt [like the first picture] but I made it with old and new fabric. I knew it was 'wrong' but couldn't resist. Now it's pretty tatty as a result but still just as loved.
BEst wishes

Balou said...

What wonderful keepsakes quilts are. Your mother is uber talented! Thanks for sharing. What great stories behind the patches.

Suldog said...

Oh my goodness! What an amazing amount of work! It's much easier to make something for someone who truly appreciates what you're doing, though, and there's little doubt that you certainly do. You're blessed, but of course you know that already.

Mother Theresa said...

Wow! That is amazing. I can only imagine the time it must have taken. Good thing your mom didn't have a blog. ;)

Craver Vii said...

Quilts are great, but I'm afraid that they'll fall apart in the wash.

lecram said...

Though I think that quilts are beautiful... I too am partial to patchwork. I think it is something to do with the rustic feel about random pieces put together to form something.

Cheers!

misticblu said...

I should expect that someone who lives in "quilt country" has nice quilts but WOW!!! Never seen anything like them, beautiful and lucky you are to have them to pass down.
I too have a mother who makes and gives quilts at various events in life. My most treasured is crocheted, 50 DIFFERENT 12" blocks that my grandmother hadn't quite finished when she died. My mom finished then could not stop, made 2 more!! Therapy , I am sure :)

Kathryn said...

Wow! That is amazing. She must REALLY like you. ;)

DianeCA said...

The quilts are so beautiful and I just love the mixture of colors and textures. But most of all I love the history of the fabrics, especially the idea of using the fabrics from kitchen curtains and from the outfit my mother sewed for you me to wear on the day your adoption was finalized. It gets me all misty eyed.

Fred said...

The Missus is in awe of these quilts. I'm not a good judge when it comes to this subject.

Lulda Casadaga said...

Just beautiful! You are blessed to have such a great mom... :)

My mother quilts with her church group and everytime I visit I see a new quilt...but, never one for me. :(
AHH, but never fear...I have a few quilts that my ex-mother-in-law made me years ago. They are still holding up and looking good.

Of course, my husband doesn't think much about them...he should see the prices out there that they charge now...he may change his tune! LOL

seventh sister said...

That log cabin has so many colors in it that it reminds me of tie-dye.