In March of 2006, I was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. After getting over the shock, I began a year long series of chemotherapy. My family, neighbors, and friends were the cornerstone of getting back and forth to chemotherapy which started at 8am and finished around 4:00pm. One of the women who volunteered to take me was Nancy Wright and I had never met her. She had recently moved from Missouri to Georgia and her son had been diagnosed with cancer and his friends had rallied around him and she was so grateful that she just wanted to help someone else, a pay it forward kind of act. During our ride and through the day, we discussed many things as we are both retired teachers. She mentioned how she wanted to put her mother's clothes in a quilt. I told her that I would be more than happy to help whenever she was ready.
A year later, she called and said she was ready to make the quilt and would I help her. She brought several bags of clothes and my initial reaction was one of quiet surprise. Many of her mother's clothes were made of polyester and some were fragile and well worn. Of course, the colors appeared to have no harmony. I knew how important this memory quilt was so we set about piling the clothes into color groups and to our surprise, we found some colorful relationships. Next, we chose a simple 9 patch since she had never done any quilting. We worked many days happily cutting and teaching her how to chain and make half square triangles etc.
When she was telling her adult son about the quilt he told her that she needed to make a quilt for each of her siblings. That was quite a challenge as she has 7 siblings. In the end, after many many hours of sewing blocks (63 per quilt) Nancy very successfully and with such patience, completed all 8 tops. Nancy used an old Singer machine that I lent her. She learned how to use a rotary cutting tool, how to make binding, etc and many days she stretched her comfort level. She varied the pattern on all eight quilt tops. With determination and resolve she completed all eight tops just before Christmas and each top made it to her siblings. The tops are all beautiful and a wonderful memory of their beloved mother.
Since, my diagnosis, I have been so amazed at the kindness and generosity of people willing to give of themselves to help others, like Nancy did for me. I met and have a new friend, got through the first year of chemotherapy because of the many people who were there for me. Quilting has been my therapy and many days it helped me through the cancer treatments. The challenge of making a quilt let me escape the worry and the cancer.
I wanted to share a little Terri with you.
This is a sad, but sweet story. Terri was my sister-in-law, but that is as far as that in-law title went. She was a sweet, caring and inspiring woman that took everything in stride. She was about 10 years older than me, and her wisdom was so far ahead that it takes me a couple of years to get it. Funny thing is that the last two years have been tough for me and her wisdom keept coming to the surface.
About Terri. She had been fighting a rough cough for over a month. The doctor decided to take her in and get x-rays. She was struck with the news that her lungs were covered with cancer. No, she wasn’t a smoker and in good health. Of course I did what we all do now a days. I dove into the internet to learn all I could. Found out that a partial lung transfer from a live donor to another was possible and successful for this situation. The day I was to present this information, they had further results of some other tests. The cancer was also down her back! She went in for aggressive treatment and the cancer went into remission for a little while. She never complained and everything was usually fine. Her strength was amazing to me. The Cancer came back and this time it was attacked her brain.
I wanted to do something special. Her husband’s folks, whom we love and adore, couldn’t travel anymore and it broke their heart. They wanted to do something too. I wanted to make a quilt. I wanted her to be surrounded with love. A signature quilt came to mind. Everyone was willing to participate. So, I shipped out bits of yellow fabric and pens everywhere. All the kids and some pets were the ones I’m sure that brought the biggest smile. She loved the kids and the doggies. I took a picture of Terri with her two girls cheek to cheek and found out later it was her daughter’s favorite picture. That picture was the feature of the quilt with bits of yellow all around. I changed the shirts a bit and had her wearing a yellow shirt to help tie in with the signature fabric.
The presentation of the quilt was just as important as what was in the quilt. We had extra family down and wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. All the adults gathered around and held the quilt and prayed positive thoughts and dreams into it. Then it was the kid’s turn. Keep in mind they were all boys. They got in a tight grouping with their hands held high and we put the quilt on top of them. They held the quilt high. We asked them to think of how it felt playing with their favorite toys, and then they screamed at the top of their lungs. Yes, we were outside! The point was to send in all the positive energy, and boy was there a lot of energy. Then we presented the energy quilt covered in love to Terri and she wrapped herself in it.
She lost her battle this last summer, but was around long enough to see her daughter get married. Even then she had the strength to still celebrate.
I will miss her very much.
I wanted to also include a picture of the quilt top that I made for Catheryn. This picture is of my mother opening her gift for Mother's Day - of the replica I made of Catheryn's quilt. I thought you might like to see it as well as hear the story that I posted earlier.
I began quilting for the first time in my life in May 2005. Having six children kept me from having much time to myself. So now that they were all on their own, I found a friend who took time to teach a group of us how to quilt. I fell in love with quilting and have found opportunities to quilt all the time since then! In September 2006, I joined our local quilt guild, Illini Country Stitchers.
One day, I found a fabric that I just couldn't leave in a store, so I bought some and made a quilt top with it – the pattern was called Just Can't Cut It. Great pattern. After I had made the quilt top, I decided that, because the fabric had tulips on it, I would finish the quilt and give it to my 23-year old daughter, Catheryn, for her 2nd wedding anniversary, which would have been May, 2007. For some reason, I told her in an email that I was going to make this quilt for her - and she was very excited and wanted to see a picture of it. I told her she had to wait to see a picture, but I did tell her it had beautiful tulips on a black background - as the main focus fabric.
On November 8, 2006, my daughter, Catheryn, and her husband, Steve decided to go fishing on a lake in Utah called Strawberry Reservoir. They also took Steve's brother, Kimball and his friend, Mike. The four of them got in the 14-foot aluminum boat and motored out about a mile into this 7,000-acre lake that beautiful morning.
About 11:30 a.m. a storm moved into the area and within minutes they had 4-foot waves attacking them which sunk their boat out from under them in 30 seconds! They were all four left in 40 degree water, with their heavy clothing, boots, etc. Steve just kept yelling, "Swim and pray, swim and pray!" Yes, they had life jackets, but one did not - Mike. He held on to a gas can which kept him afloat.
Kimball and Mike swam one direction, Steve and Catheryn swam another. Steve and Catheryn, being small in stature, succumbed to hypothermia, while Kimball and Mike, being large men, kept swimming as hard as they could for 2 hours - thinking all the time that Catheryn and Steve were coming too.
After they made it to shore (a total miracle) they laid there in complete exhaustion, and numb. Kimball and Mike then walked barefoot for 2 miles through the mountainous terrain to get to the street for help. They were treated for hypothermia. Catheryn's and Steve's life jackets were found that evening; their bodies were found 9 days later. I lost my gorgeous daughter and wonderful son-in-law that day, Nov. 8, 2006. Catheryn never got to see her quilt.
I took the quilt top with me to Utah (we live in Illinois). When the kids were finally found and we were preparing for their funeral, I wrapped Catheryn in her quilt, kissed her cheek, and told her that she would never, ever, ever be cold again. I miss her terribly, but I know she is happy and safe and that she and Steve are waiting for us to be with them someday. I know that they are watching over us even now. I am grateful for my strong faith in my Heavenly Father and my Savior, Jesus Christ.
In January, 2007, I remade the quilt and gave it to my mother for Mother's Day, as a replica of Catheryn's quilt. Steve and Catheryn were only married for 18 months. She had just graduated with her bachelor's degree in August a few months earlier. I am so glad that I was able to attend her graduation from the University and from Life!
I and a few other members of my quilt guild, the Country Neighbors, of Brockport, NY were at a craft sale selling raffle tickets to our raffle quilt last April. A gentleman approached us and said "Ladies, ladies! I have been searching for someone to make me some quilts! I have saved my mother-in-law's clothing the last 7 years since she passed away and want to surprise my family with some quilts made from her clothes for Christmas." We talked among ourselves a moment and then asked him a few things. We wanted to be sure he wouldnt' be expecting an heirloom quality king-sized quilt for $100. He was willing to pay up to $400 each and would leave all design decisions to us.
After discussing it at our next guild meeting, we decided to proceed. I emailed Mike for his color choices. He chose yellow for his wife, blue for his father-in-law, red for the oldest daughter, pink for the next daughter and green for his youngest child. Members went home to search their books and magazines for patterns that might work. Mike brought me several bags of clothing.
We weren't sure what we'd find, and there were several items we could not use, but there were at least 16 garments that were cotton and flannel that we could use. Quite an assortment of color! One member washed and ironed and cut them apart.
We came up with 3 patterns that used plenty of muslin so the clothing would be enough for 5 quilts. The 2 adults would get the same pattern in a king sized. The oldest daughter got a lovely pattern that used rail fence and nine-patch and the youngest 2 got versions of Irish chain with an applique in the centers made of the clothing fabric; hearts for the pink and stars for the green.
Whenever we work on group quilts, we have someone make up "kits" and this is what I did. I made over 50 baggies with cut squares for the nine-patches and the irish chain blocks. I decided the best way to get the appliques to turn out alike was to fuse them myself and have members do the edge stitching. So I cut and fused about 30 of those blocks. By this time it was August and it seemed like the pressure was on. I was thankful to all the members that every single kit and block went home from our August meeting.
In September, we scheduled 2 sewing days to assemble rows and quilt tops. One member took the pink top home to quilt on her Tin Lizzie and I did the other 4 at a shop that rents time on their HQ16's for $15/hour. Several other members sewed the bindings on.
At this point, we needed to plan a special label for each quilt. I emailed Mike to ask what name his MIL went by such as Grandma or Nana and he answered "no one ever called her anything but Helen." I found a lovely panel of labels that were Christmas cardinals and used my embroidery machine to stitch the info.
We invited Mike to our Christmas party and presented the quilts to him. We had them on a table and revealed them like a bed-turning. He was very pleased and looks forward to the surprise he's "managed to pull off" (his words). It made us all feel good to make such a lasting memory of Helen for her family. Not to mention, it was a pretty good fund raising project for the guild.
Carmen is a 15 year old girl in our town with cancer. I have never met her but I felt I wanted to make her a memory quilt. I also have stage 4 cancer myself that went to my bones. The quilt was given to Carmen at a benefit and she quickly wrapped herself in it. It didn't take me that long but the feeling of joy, knowing you made somebody smile is all worth it.
I finally met Carmen after I made the quilt and I knew I did the right thing. She is the sweetest courageous 15 year old I've ever met.
Why I Love Quilts
By Rayellen Smith
I don't have a picture of this quilt = so I uploaded a photo of me!
Quilts are usually made by women. They are made for a purpose: to look at, to love, to warm and to hold dear. They tell the stories of their makers in each patch and stitch. Quilts are stories without the words.
The old quilts are the best- the ones where the fabrics don’t match, or not to today's standards. They evoke the practicality of the making, the struggle in it, and the usefulness of it.
I was once asked to repair an old quilt by a neighbor who heard I liked to sew. It was lovely, hand pieced and quilted about 60 years old. It had been used almost daily for a great number of those years. It was well worn from being on beds, wiping up big spills, and covering windows in winter. One look and I knew this would be a lot of work. My husband was afraid if I agreed that the neighbor would just be back for more free work. I did it anyway. The patches were worn and many needed replacing. The tiny quilting stitches were hard for me to replicate since I am not that good at hand quilting. But the work and love that was in this fabric told a story and I wanted to know it.
I asked my neighbor to tell me about this quilt. How had she used it? Where did it come from? All she could tell me was that it belonged to her husband and that his grandmother had made it. She had used it when they were first married and her kids had picked it up as they grew. It was a household quilt. But I wanted to know the woman who made it. Where did she live? How many kids did she have? What was her life like - on a prairie? In a city? My neighbor could not tell me.
I worked on that quilt many evenings in front of the television watching BBC TV after a 14-hour-day of work and commuting of my own. I took apart squares, added fabric to replace the worn, pulled out stitches and replaced them. It lay over my lap, draping onto the floor as I worked. I caressed the fabric she stitched, I pulled the thread she sewed, I cut and inserted her fabric where she had worked to cut and insert fabric. I tried to understand her- but couldn't.
I asked my neighbor to tell me about her - she did not know her story. I asked my neighbor to ask her husband about her-she looked at me funny. I gave up.
I finished repairing the quilt - and showed her how to store it. I brought her a needle and thread and taught her how to make further repairs. I wanted to make sure the love in its making would continue into the love in its use. My neighbor won't repair it - but that's ok. She loves it in her way - loved it enough to ask me to repair it - it's in good hands.
I love quilts. I love to make them, to think about them, to snuggle them and to learn their stories. I make mine for my family and for babies. I don't have any of my good ones for myself. My daughter and son have them, my Mom has one, my sister has some small ones (she's due a big one). And I don't have time to make the ones I plan. But quilts are women’s legacy. So cheers to the women who make them to keep their families warm in winter, out of practicality, stitch by stitch of love. I love them for the stories, and the women and the good hands they are in.
My mom gave me this Dutch Doll quilt top (#5) on October 10, 2002, because I am the keeper in the family. Hopefully every family has one; someone who saves the family heirlooms and passes them down to the next generation. I was just starting to quilt so she also knew that I would treasure it as well as preserve it. At the time, mom was the early stages of Alzheimer’s. She was no longer able to quilt on her own but in 2003, I made a Double Irish Chain quilt for my daughter and she helped me hand quilt it. I had to mark lines for her to follow but her stitches were tiny and even; unlike mine. This was the last sewing she was able to do.
The Dutch Doll quilt was made by mom’s mother, Ada Martin (Grubb) Scarbrough. Granny was born November 14, 1889 and died the Friday before Easter, April 1960 at the age of 71; I was nine. We aren’t sure what year the quilt top was made but probably in the 1930’s. Feed sacks with colorful prints were first sold around 1925.
This is a picture (#1) of my grandmother’s family made between 1895 and 1903. They are beside a house that no longer exists but is the house I was born in. A year or two after my grandmother died, the house was tore down and my parents built a new house. Granny is the young girl on the right in the front row. Her mother Amanda, my g-grandmother, is the second lady from the left in the second row. She has an x on her dress. Granny’s sister Nora is the tall lady in the next row that and has an x above her head. Nora died in 1903 and that is one way we can date the picture. The man to the left behind Nora is my g-grandfather, William Marion Grubb, Jr. I can identify some of the other, but not all and I won’t bore you as this is about the quilt top. But first this is a picture (#4) of Granny, my brother Gary and me on the front porch of that old house. Pictures #2 and #3 are two of my favorite pictures of my grandmother. That’s my grandfather in the boat and you can barely see him in the buggy behind her on the horse.
We always called it The Dutch Doll Quilt but the pattern is more commonly known as Sunbonnet Sue. Every summer on a bright sunny day mom would get all the old quilt tops out of an old blanket chest and hang them on the clothes line to ‘air out’.
The ‘dolls’ are made from feed sacks and the white blocks are made from Domino Sugar sacks. You can still see some of the printing on the back of some of the blocks. The green fabric is not stable and has some holes and would have to be replaced if I ever decide to quilt the top. There are also some rust spots from being stored inside the blanket chest.
As I wrote in an earlier blog, I’m debating what to do with this quilt top. Currently it is spread out on my guest bed along with other quilt top’s that mom never got around to quilting. There are also other quilts that were passed down to her that I discovered in a cedar chest at her house when we had to move mom to a nursing home. This top is such a treasure and I don’t think it is receiving the attention it should. I’m thinking of taking the top apart and quilting eight of the blocks individually and framing them to hang as art in my living room. I would keep six, give one to my daughter, and one to my niece, along with the history of the blocks. I think they are both going to be keepers. The remaining 12 blocks I would use to make a small quilt to be passed along to my daughter.
Thanks for reading.
I am a member of the Merrimack Valley Quilters from Massachusetts. Since the Fall of 2001 I have been organizing quilting weekends at Bay View Villa, in Saco, ME for the members of my guild. The Villa is a convent and retreat house run by the Good Shepard Sisters. Recently we had our last weekend at Bay View. The Good Shepard Sisters are closing this facility due to the small number of Sisters still living there. We have been to Bay View twice a year since we began and this was our fifteen visit. Over the years we have made friends with many of these wonderful individuals. Last year we decided to get a list of all the Sister's names and we all picked a Sister or Staff member and made a lap size quilt for each.
On our last Saturday afternoon at 1 o'clock we had a tea for the Sisters and presented each with their gift quilt. When someone said, "Go ahead you can open your gifts now." they were like little children on Christmas morning. The happiness of these women turned what could have been a sad weekend into one of great joy and happiness for all of us. We truly got more back than we could have ever given to them. It was such a joyous event and filled with love and gratitude. It is wonderful how quilts say so much about love and our caring feelings.
I would love to share our photos of this event with you. The happiness can be felt in these pictures and all of you deserve to see for yourself how quilts speak to people. After we gave the Sisters the quilts they asked us to their Community Room to see all of the quilts spread out on the chairs. It was a beautiful quilt show for us all. We were so busy watching our own Sister that we didn't get to see the other quilts well and this gave us the opportunity for everyone to see each others quilts.
By the way, the over 700 pastries for this tea were all made by Phyllis Robart, an octogenarian and guild member, who comes to all of our weekend retreats. She did a fabulous job and her hard work is greatly appreciated by all.
When we read in my husband's home town paper about a father giving his young daughter a kidney, we decided to send quilts. The family lives on a ranch in Sout East Montana. As we were approaching the 5 year anniversary of a kidney transplant from myself to my husband, this was something we could relate to.
For the Dad, I found a cheater pannel with running horses in rich browns and golds. I set out with no real plan, just deciding to let the quilt be what it wanted to be. I was thinking a lap quilt, for covering up on winter evenings, not that a Montana rancher has much time to sit! The quilt grew larger, like the big sky of Montana, 96 x 114. It was as hard to rein in as the wild horses on the fabrics. I had to wrangle bias edges, partial seams, Y seams, fussy cuts, lines that did not line up, and areas that would not lay flat. There were cutting errors to correct with splicing. I began to wonder if it would get made at all.
I was even tempted to just add 'slab O border'. I could not let this become a UFO. Finally it all came together. Some fabrics were sent to me by whisperingpines (thanks, Tille!). Her fabrics fit with mine wonderfully. When I saw her Lone Star quilts and her screen name, I knew she had to be from Montana. It turns out we lived not far from each other when I lived in Montana. Coincidentally our husbands had known each other for years at work, but it took The Quilt Show for us to meet.
The first problem was to make the horizontal pannel into a vertical quilt. Placing a square braid on point behind the pannel gave extra height. Letting the braid spill onto the border at the sides gave the quilt more length. I wanted the braid to point to the outer edges on all sides, which meant changing direction. This left space for fussy cuts. The quilt was assembled in a flip and sew method, both front and back.
I wanted to quilt freely around the stuffed horses, so I could not use my frame. After quilting the pannel, I added fussy cut triangles and the first row of braid to the top, a slab of batting, and a triangle to the back. I left a few inches unquilted all around so the next sections could be added. I continued this way untill compleete. With this meathod I was able to quilt the center without having the bulk to deal with. Just as some parts did not want to work out, others just fell into place. Blocks that did not work in the braid fit into the border.
For the daughter's Bento Box quilt, I wanted it to be bright and colorfull. I gathered prints from my stash, and purchased more, (building more stash!). I lost count how many. For the backing I chose fabric with rows of tiny sheep each with a different colorful print on their fleece coats. This fits well, as the family raises sheep on the ranch. I made 2 halves, quilted on a Flynn frame, then joined them. A very fun quilt!