Monday, April 20, 2009

Before 2000

During the first few years of marriage, when the kids were young, I occasionally sewed clothes for the them or myself. I made Jamie lots of beautiful dresses for the holidays - about the only time she would wear them. My favorite shirt for Jon was one we still refer to as the banana shirt. It was not covered with bananas, but it was rather tropical. He had matching shorts to go with it, but I think he hid those shortly after I made them. The shirt was worn until it was pretty much threadbare.

I had lots of other interests at the time, but somehow I always had quilting in the back of my mind. I do not remember any quilters in my family when I was growing up, but my Grandma "Fanny" made lots of beautiful afghans from bits and pieces of yarn - Granny squares. Because I always thought I might be able to do something with the sports shirts and the leftover fabric, I boxed it up and moved it along with all of our other treasures, but not until I started cutting all those hexagons in 1989 did I really consider making a "real" quilt.

My husband is a career Naval officer, which means that we move often and have spent many months adjusting to different locations. In 1989, I was looking for a project to take up more of time so that I would not be thinking about where his ship was heading. I got out that stash of leftover fabrics, and I cut and cut and cut. I did not have any real pattern, I really thought I had cut enough hexagons to make 10 quilts (I only had about 30 left when I finally finished). I stitched by-hand on the the blocks sitting on the bleachers watching soccer practice. I stitched on the blocks late into the night when I could not sleep. I stitched on the blocks sitting in the car waiting for the kids to finish different activities, and I stitched on the blocks while I listened to other Navy wives. You would think that during just a few of those long deployments I could have finished the whole quilt, but I did not.

In 1991, I broke my upper arm in six places, my wrist in one, chipped off some of my shoulder bone and did some real nerve damage. For almost two years I worked to regain the use of my arm. I did not hold much of anything in my right hand because of the discomfort during the time, but I finally made a good recovery. During that time, I did not stitch or even think about it, except to have it packed up for another move.

The needle stayed pretty much packed away for a number of years because I went back to college and earned another bachelor's degree and started teaching. Being a mother, a wife, and a teacher left very little time for anything else. When I could not sleep, I did more school work. However, Grandma's Flower Garden seemed to come out and call me to stitch during school breaks.

With another move and my work on a masters' degree put on hold, I finally started working on the hexagons with real dedication. I made the commitment to finish the whole quilt before 2000. Each piece of fabric represented a special moment in our lives, and I wanted to have it finished before the kids graduated from college and moved on with their own families. I finished the top just before my husband returned from a deployment and had it put together before we left for Christmas vacation. It is a special heirloom, but the best part is when the kids sit down on it and discuss the different memories that the fabrics evoke.

The making of that was the turning point in my quilting adventure. I did not know enough to hand-quilt this "masterpiece. I tied it with dark green embroidery floss, and am still afraid of the idea of washing it. I did make two hexagon-shaped pillow which were hand quilted. One pillow was an experiment. The other one features the Looney Tunes "Taz" and made from the leftovers of a wildly crazed phase of making boxer shorts. Should I go back and do something else to the quilt now that I am much more experienced or should I treat it differently. I do not know, but I believe that quilts are made to be loved and to be used by those we love, so.....

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