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.