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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.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I so loved this wonderful essay and the photos. I, too, had ancestors that made quilts (my mother made her 1st one when she was seven) and I have a piece of fabric family history covering an entire wall in my bedroom/office. See http://www.timegoesby.net/weblog/where-lyn-burnstine-blogs.html
in Where Elders Blog

Marcy, What a wonderful story. I used to quilt years ago when my children were young but finally gave it up due to the demands of my job and caring for my family. I still have several completed quilt tops from those days which I need to have hand-quilted. Thanks for reminding my and inspiring me.

Beautiful quilts!! I am an active quilter (preparing two quilts for our annual show)so I understand what you're saying. Only one distant cousin in our family quilted. I have a Dresden Plate she made in the '50s. I find quilters are especially sharing and caring women just as you say.

Just wonderful. Thank you. Only this year have I decided to stop quilting. I'm not a natural at it, and tho I will really miss working with the fabrics and colors, I know my stash will go to a good cause.

I am not a quilter but have always attended any quilt shows that come to Seattle for I admire not only their beauty but the craftsmanship of the quilter. What a wonderful pastime to have. Thanks for sending the pictures also.

Marcy, funnily enough, I find that you did look at and comment on my picture of my quilt on my wall, way back when I posted in "Where Elders Blog."

I am not a quilter. Within the last 4 years, however, I have become enamored of old Crazy quilts. I have found a quilt and a quilt top that have stories stitched into them. Each one was made by someone who used a variety of stitches to attach the random shaped pieces that have been part of their lives. Both have some blocks that include intricate embroidery that is unique and beautiful. The silks, the lace, the variety of colors, the variety of stitches
fascinates me. Every time I look at the one hanging in our living room I find something new that I hadn't noticed before.
So, instead of being a quilter, I am a quilt admirerer....
Thanks for sharing your wonderful experiences and family history of quilts in your life.
Michigan Grandma

Wonderful and interesting story, Marcy.

I am not a quilter but I really admire those who have the skills to conceive and complete anything as beautiful as your quilts.

I think the best thing about writing stories is the great
comments. I feel like I know every one of you, and I thank you.

While you were stitching and making the quilts you formed friendships and left quite a nice legacy. I hope your efforts will be lovingly preserved by the recipients.
I too love writing, especially now when my hands are arthritic and it is easier than art, gardening and sewing projects.

I've always admired people with the patience and desire to quilt or sew because I don't have either. However, I love, love, love quilts and the ones you have made are super outstanding! I admire them and couldn't have a favorite. Thank you for sharing your love of this craft.

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