geekin' on yarn, parenting, & whatever else comes up.



June 2006



Threads of Life

Written by , Posted in Legacy, Quilting, Weblogs, WIPs

You folks will have to let me know if a post about a craft other than knitting bothers you here; I know this is theoretically a knitting blog, but for the summer, I may focus much more so on the other myriad crafts that draw my interest. If this will cause consternation in my readers, however, then I will create yet another blog for non-knitting Crafty-type posts. But that would be annoying for me, so let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, shall we? 🙂

This evening, I finally got the incomplete bridal quilt my mother made
for me dragged out from its storing place in my Great-Grandmother’s
cedar chest. The legacy this quilt represents for both myself, my husband, and our daughter is difficult to quantify. My husband and I were both very close with my mother, and her early death caused my family huge amounts of pain and loss. So the fact that this quilt managed to make it through all the crap surrounding my mother’s passing to begin with is something of a miracle.

My mother had both Multiple Sclerosis, and also another, extremely rare auto-immune disorder called Behcet’s Disease. In addition to the havoc wrought on her system by MS, her immune system began to attack her vascular system. It got very bad very fast after a very long diagnosis process, and she died in February of 2002, at the age of 46 years old.

Before that, however, during the ten-odd years Mama spent as a semi- to total invalid, she found that hand applique, particularly in the Baltimore Album style, was one of the things she was still able to do, even on "bad" days. It was something I had shown her from my usual Craft-ADD repetoire that she took to immediately, and proceeded to take the art to glorious places.

When she began my wedding/bridal quilt, I don’t believe I’d even met my husband yet. The first block she finished was a classic album block out of a little book by Mimi Detrich:


Other than this particular quilt, which was her first foray into the Album style, Mama tended towards more sophisticated designer’s blocks, like the famous Elly Sienkiewicz blocks that most folks identify with the genre.  However, I have loved these simple blocks from the very beginning, and my mother’s sense of color, I think, made them all the more wonderful.

That first album block was completed in the year 2000, and the little book closes with a button Mama dug out from my Mom-Mom’s button stash. (Mom-Mom was my mother’s maternal grandmother, the one who at one time owned a yarn shop in Pennsylvania called Celeste’s Yarns)

Inside the album, my Mama wrote the following inscription:

She completed the hand applique of the remaining blocks for the quilt literally a week or two before she went into the hospital for the last time. She’d managed to complete all the blocks, and put the first three rows of the quilt top together before she was unable to do any more.

My mother’s friend, and my quilting mentor, Judy Shapiro, had initially taken the quilt immediately following my mother’s passing, in hopes that she would be able to have it completed for me. Unfortunately, Judy’s own health was not the best, and she needed all her energy for her own quilt artistry — which, if you click the link, you will see is amazing.

It took Judy and I several years, if you can believe it, to get our collective acts together long enough for me to go see her and collect the unfinished quilt. Seeing it again, after not having seen it since before my mother’s death, was indescribable. It still retains the cigarette smell from my mother’s home (now gone), and although I don’t generally like that smell, it brought her very close to me to open the bag, pull out the quilt, and remember seeing her working on each block with her hands I loved so much.

There were three rows completed and pieced together in what’s called a Garden Maze setting by my mother before she died; then Judy and her quilting friends completed another row. Tonight, I put together the last row. Now I have to finish paper-piecing the setting squares for the setting strips, and the quilt top will be completed except for borders, which I will need to applique myself.

The lower-most strip is the one I put together this evening, while the one above it is the one pieced together by Judy and friends.

This seems an ideal project for the way I’ve been feeling of late. I always feel my mother’s absence acutely, but lately I have wanted more than ever to feel close to her, and to embrace the legacy of handcrafts and needlework that she left with me. I want my little girl to have something, when she marries or is ready to accept it, that the grandmother she never knew stitched by hand, that her mother completed, and that has ties to other women of our family and the crafts we all have in common. So if you’re interested, I’ll try to post my progress here and let you know where things are. This has languished quite long enough, and I am ready to have the quilt complete in such a way that I can hug it close during the times I miss Mama the most.

I took a photo of every block this evening, but the light is lousy after dark, imagine that! So I will re-take those later, and if enough interest is out there for it, I’ll post the photos of blocks of my own I’ve appliqued, other quilt projects I have in the works, and etc.

I leave you with a few photos of Sophie, seated in the big bay window of our living room this past weekend, enjoying the sunshine and her Fireman Woody doll with the pull-string and everything, just like one of her favorite Pixar movies. We are hoping to make the Cars movie her first seen on the big screen; we’ll have to see, however, whether it’s too early to take her to something like that, or if she’ll be as enthralled as we hope.

Certainly we are constantly enthralled by her.



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