Wednesday, 04 July 2012
A Quilter at Heart
By Marcy Belson
I can't play the piano, I can't even carry a tune. But I can quilt and I have done it for a long time. I was so jealous when I heard a carload of women were traveling to the nearest large city for quilt lessons from a well-known teacher. I wasn't asked to join them but since I was a working woman, it would not have been possible.
When I did quit working and moved to that same large city, I found a quilting guild, went to J.J. Newberry's and bought some inexpensive floral fabric and set out to make a quilt. I soon discovered fabric shops and became a devoted customer.
Suddenly, a family calamity. My father was diagnosed with a brain tumor and given six months to live. My days were filled with his schedule for doctor appointments and radiation appointments.
I sat in waiting rooms with little blocks of pink fabric and worked my way through that short six months. It ended exactly at six months. My father was gone. I had a pink quilt that most of the women in my family had put a few stitches in as we sat together during that time.
I will always miss my dad. I still have that quilt. It isn't much to look at but it is memories of that time to me. Memories, that is, of what it is all about. I see a tiny scrap of one of my school dresses in a quilt my mother made in 1950. Another quilt has my family members signed names on it. We sleep under quilts made by me and my family.
Both of my grandmothers were quilters. My father's mother made quilts for every child in the family, her grandchildren and great grandchildren. My mother's mother had a frame upstairs in the family furniture store. When the girls came in from school, they were expected to go upstairs and quilt for an hour before going home.
My mother made quilt tops but after quilting a few, she sent them home to Arkansas where the church women made their missionary money by quilting for others. I have a photo of the quilt my great great grandmother made, lovingly preserved.
My husband drove across country to Paducah, Kentucky, for the quilt show, just for me. He told me that in order to find me in the crowd, I needed a helium balloon, tied to my ear. A sea of white haired women, I was so delighted to be one of them. I never had a quilt entered in that show but I loved every minute of the experience.
My cousin Barbara and I each made a Baltimore Album quilt, sending each other blocks, across country - she in Florida, me in Oregon - and here are the finished products, when we met in Paducah for the show.
The quilt I made for my grandson, who likes Civil War history, has appliqued figures on the borders. I pinned it to a clothesline and my cousin Linny stands beside me in the photo.
I made dozens of quilts from baby quilts for newborns, to king sized for our family. More importantly, I made wonderful friends who filled my days with laughter and a few tears as I said goodbye when we moved and when friends died.
Here's a toast to the days spent at Audrey's home, having lunch at her long, glass-topped table with the dogs running under the table, sure that there would be hand outs. Week after week, she opened her door to quilters, gave us a place to spend a rewarding day with friends and our quilting projects.
Here's to the women who shared their knowledge, their fabrics and their hearts. And, here's a thank you to my grandmothers, both of whom loved hand sewing and passed on the gene to me.
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