Monday, January 26, 2009

Quilt Stories

The Blog: Quilt Stories
Thanks so much to everyone who contributed stories. Not surprisingly, the common theme of painstaking love seems to run among them all. I hope you can take a minute to read through!

The Stories:

From Monique Leutkemeyer
No one in my family quilted. That's not to say they weren't crafty, my mom is very good at crochet and my grandmother made all the dresses for my aunt's wedding. However I didn't even know you could quilt until I was in my mid twenties. But once I discovered the quilting world I couldn't be stopped. I lived with my best friend at the time and we both got started small. We made pillows for everyone for Christmas one year. By the time I was done I had made like 10 pillows or something like that. I got a little cocky with all my "experience" and decided I would try my hand at making a full size quilt. What a disaster that turned out to be! Not a single line was straight and it became so disproportionate that I had to scrap the whole project.. That was only after ripping out the stitches about 100 times and trying to fix that ugly thing. I really wish I had taking a picture of "the worst looking quilt ever made." It was so bad it was funny. I have yet to try a full size quilt but I still love the process, think I'll stick to pillows and wall hangings though.

The same story from Monique's friend, Mary Watts
After growing up sewing on an ancient Singer sewing machine operated by the foot pedal, and stitching everything from hair scrunchies to small purses by hand after leaving my natal home for years, I decided to treat myself to an electric sewing machine. Suddenly an entire new world opened up for me. I could create so much in such a short amount of time! My roommate had purchased a quilt cutting kit for me at Christmas and and we thought making quilt-patterned throw pillows would be fun and simple enough, and so we went together to the fabric store galore and chose our colors and patterns and drew up designs.

That was a pivotal point in my life. Once my pillow was complete, I scanned the papers and each time there was a sale, added more and more hues and prints to my collection. I didn't answer the phone, didn't answer the door- Clandestine weekends were spent with my sewing machine... Eyes shining and cheeks flushed, I would glance at the clock and find it three am! Oh joy! Everyone with a birthday or wedding during those months either received a quilt patterned pillow or pillowcase or apron set (oh! I even taught myself how to applique! Bless!).

Ten I decided I was ready to make a quilt for my mother for her birthday. But it was going to be created in the free-form flow that reflected the style of our family. I chose the original design of the very first pillow, and created four of them, alternating the colors and patterns on the throw. They varied a bit in shape and size, forgiven by the cream-colored background. I then appliqued seven read hearts to reflect each family member randomly on top of the design and chose the most delectable to the skin blue underside I could find. The underside created a frame for the top of the throw, too. I ended up hand stitching quite a bit of it for the effect I was seeking. That quilt was a labor of love. It was non-symmetrical, unconforming, involved intuition and problem-solving, involved many happy thoughts and wishes, and has warmed and comforted many in these past seven years.

From Mary, Monique's stepmother
I've made many quilts & afghans over the years. The one that stands out is the one I made for my mother. I was a teenager - maybe 15. I spent months making squares. I knitted orange & brown squares and painstakingly sewed them together. It was my first attempt and I was so proud of it. I made brown wool tassles to finish it off. The following mother's day I gave it to my mother (who cried when she opened the box). I'll never forget the look on her face and the years she sat in her chair with my quilt on her lap. My next attempt was a few years later when I cut every piece of material I could find into squares (different sizes & all colors). When it came time to finish and to fill with batting I lost interest and never finished it. By then I was into crewel work which I continued for a number of years and made numerous pictures which I still hang today. I think every one in my family has either an afghan or picture which I created.

From Lonnie, Monique's stepfatherGift quilts, those are the ones, that are the most special.
I am blessed to have 4, 3 small individual quilts (for that little extra warmth) that are so nice in the winter while drinking that first cup of coffee on a cold winter morn, or watching the late news, just before bed..
The other one is a full size hand stitched quilt, featuring three massed schooners.
It is normally the cover for my Great-Grandmotherʼs bed, given to me buy my oldest daughter.

The thing so very special about them though, is not only do they look beautiful, but they warm you twice.
With the insulating factor they warm physically and with the love and care that went into making them, they can warm your very heart.
Blessed by Love
Lonnie v

From Kristie Vanover, Monique's stepsister
Quilting has long been a tradition in my moms family. If Granny wasnʼt cooking or in the garden she was most likely sitting at her quilting frame or the rocking chair in her room sewing pieces together. Mom still has quilts that Granny made when I was probably only the age of three. For the longest time I had my baby blanket she made, Bub still has his somewhere. Granny would make them and sell them for extra money.. She had a cousin in New York that would send her the material she wanted and the design and Granny would fix it up and send it to her. It was always neat to me, that she was sending quilts all the way to New York, still is neat. The quilt on my bed is one that mom paid Granny to do for me when I was in high school. Yes, itʼs over twenty years old. Barely though! :) The summer before my junior year Granny and I set out to make us a quilt a piece. That was when the paint in the tubes with the ball points was big. Her sister had given her several blocks that had different cartoon characters on them. I set out painting them and when I was done we split them up and we each had a quilt with twelve squares that I had painted. Unfortunately I got my top sewed together and band camp started, followed by school and I didnʼt get my quilt made. Granny didnʼt abandon the project like I did though. She finished both of our quilts and instead of being upset with me gave me mine for Christmas. When she died the next September Mom told me I could go get the other blanket before anyone else had time to see it and try to lay claim to it. I still have them both, they are safe in my son's closet and when heʼs bigger and needs a full size quilt he will get one. The other will most likely go to my first grandchild. Of course heʼll know the story about how my Granny, his Grannyʼs momma, set out to make the quilts and how special they are. Mom also makes quilts and has for years and years. And over the years I have made a few. Mom and Dad actually have one that Mom, my mom lol, and I made.And my son has a few different ones that his Granny made him and one that Mom and I quilted down. Quilts have so much love in them...and the love goes on forever. There are times now when Iʼm changing the bed or missing Granny that Iʼll lay on her quilt and run my hands over the stitches that she made. Each one as strong as the day she made them. Just like the love...

From Susan Corpany
Mom had a quilt on her bed with pictures painted to tell a story. There was a square that was a representation of each of us five kids. My square was a young woman chasing after a boy, Sadie Hawkins style. Every time I would start dating a new guy, Mom would get out her paints and change the hair color of the guy I was chasing. To make matters more difficult, I never dated two guys in a row with the same hair color. I told her to stop changing it, to wait until I got married. By the time I married Paul, if you laid down on that quilt, there was a little bump--that guy's three-dimensional hair.

Another quilt Mom made for me was a red, white and blue bicentennial quilt for what she hoped was going to be my bicentennial wedding to Matthew Smith, who now, incidentally, I have discovered faithfully reads my Meridian column. When Matthew and I broke up, Mom ditched those plans and I got a quilt out of it. Many years later after my non-bicentennial wedding, Mom and Dad were visiting and I had pulled out the patriotic quilt to put over the twin-sized pop-up trundle bed on which my dad was going to sleep. Mom was sleeping on the daybed. They had been married long enough that the two twin beds we had to offer didn't cramp their style too much. Dad decided one afternoon to take a nap. Because it was a queen-size quilt, it draped to the floor on the twin bed. Mom and I both looked at Dad lying there and it hit us both at the same time. He looked like he was lying in state at a military funeral. I grabbed a bunch of silk flowers out of a nearby vase and laid them on his chest. "He was a good man." Our laughter must have been what awakened him, and somehow he didn't see the humor of it the way we did.

When Paul and I got married, Mom had started working on another quilt for me, with the same painted hillbilly pictures. She had put dates on it for our special days. There were little sayings that went with each picture. The last quilt square showed a mother and father and three or four children. Mom was still working on that quilt when Paul died. She picked off that last square and replaced it with a Mom and Dad and one little blond boy, knowing we would never have th group of children in that picture. She could never bring herself to work on our quilt after that. She worried that even if she finished it, if it would only serve as a reminder to me of my loss. She finally put it in a bag and stuffed it in the back of the closet.

About six months after Paul's death, she was getting ready for work one morning when she had a feeling she should pull out that quilt. She could not think of any good reason for doing so, so she went to work. The feeling stayed with her, so much so that she drove home on her lunch hour and pulled out the quilt. There on the first block was the date of January 26--the date we had met. She realized that it was January 26th. "Okay, I listened. What do you want me to do?"

Later that day I came home from running some errands and my next-door neighbor came over almost immediately, carrying a beautiful bouquet of flowers. "These came for you. Have you met someone?"


I could tell she wasn't going to go away until I opened the card. "What does it say?"

It says "From someone who loves you."

"Maybe you've got a secret admirer."

"I doubt it."

"Is today a special day?"

"I don't know. What day is it anyway? I don't keep track much these days."

"January 26th."

I was stopped in my tracks. "Yes, it is a special day, but nobody else would remember about today. Only Paul would remember the day we met. Who else would possibly remember the day we met?"

And so, with the help of a quilt, I got flowers from the great beyond.



From Angela Judd
I love quilts! I've often told my mom that i am sad my grandma's crocheted instead of quilting. My mom has one quilt she made, just a crazy patchwork one and she knows I've got my eye on it. Back in the day when I had so much time... I pieced and made several quilts, nothing fancy just patchwork. Two used the fabric from bridesmaid's dresses. (It's telling that each dress had several yards of floral fabric... can you say early 90's?) I also cut up all of our old t-shirts and made a quilt out of them. I'm glad now for my thrift and industry. I'm not sure where that thrift and industry went, but maybe one of my kids will have their eye on one of my quilts... :)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Simultaneous Incorporation

The Blog: Simultaneous Incorporation
Part of the allure of quilts is that they often simultaneously incorporate a multitude of endearing features: color, design, skill, time, warmth, love.

Ruminating on quilts and simultaneous incorporation reminded me of when I got to be an art lady a few years ago at my children's elementary school. Every second Thursday, I donned my black art lady apron with the rainbow hearts (usually I’m not into hearts, but this was an exception) and “The arts, heart of education” emblazoned on it and went to talk to kids about a specific work of art and its artist—Renoir, Picasso, Marc Franz. Ooo.

In between time, I would go to the art poster cupboard in the library, find the cardboard-backed print next on the docket, and take home the print to study and research. If I was lucky, I remembered to bring the car since I’d learned the hard way that riding the bike didn’t work too well. Study and research complete, I could then plan an amazing (?!?) presentation for the kids—the more props neatly deposited in my trusty apron the better.

Being an art lady simultaneously incorporated some of my favorite things—art and children--and so it became one of my all-time favorite volunteer jobs.

One day I rummaged in the art cupboard for my next print—a painting by American artist Faith Ringgold. Unfamiliar with her name or work, I finally located a print anchored by black but vibrating with color. A series of triangles around the edge completed the piece. When I googled Faith Ringgold, I was fascinated to learn about her technique: she paints her subject on canvas, then quilts around the edge. She also has numerous children’s books to her credit. Her career looked like a serious case of simultaneous incorporation to me.

I could relate.

The Etymology: Simultaneous
from L. simul "at the same time" (see similar) + -taneous, abstracted from spontaneous, etc.
Ah--I hadn't made the link between "simultaneous" and "similar" before.

The Prompt:
What have you simultaneously incorporated in your life? Did you plan it that way due to a specific need, or was the circumstance the result of happy chance?

The Book: Tar Beach, by Faith Ringgold
A big city girl finds her beach on the black rooftop of her apartment building, and her imagination takes flight from there.

The Links:
Learn more about Faith Ringgold and her work at or

Friday, January 9, 2009

Quick Quilt Comments

The Blog:
Once the holidays have passed, January settles in, often with doldrums. I like to think of coziness instead, of bundling inside a quilt with a good book, so January's theme is quilts. Can you think of a quilt with special meaning, one with colors or patterns you've loved, one made for you by someone important in your life, one that generates memories? As a child I remember loving the handmade quilts that appeared on our beds when the nights turned chilly. Each quilt had a story. For example, when my mom married, a friend of my grandma made the thick green and pink star quilt on my bed—green for my dad’s favorite color, pink for my mom’s. I also loved sitting on my mom’s bed before she made it in the morning to examine the materials and patterns in the worn fan quilt that hid under the bedspread after the covers had been straightened. On lucky days, Mom would point out which fabrics came from her childhood dresses.

I've only ventured once into piecing and quilting a full-sized quilt, a pattern of rocket blocks for one of my sons. Mom, bless her heart, took over most of the cutting and piecing when I realized, with toddlers and preschoolers, that I was in over my head. Mom, my grandma and I all quilted it together when they came out for a visit. I can still find and trace my grandma's stitches, over-large and frustruating to her due to failing eyesight. She is gone now, but the stitches--endearing in their size--remain.

The PHP (Personal History Prompt):
This is a new feature I'm starting to tie writing in with reading and language. I'm not sure yet if I'll change the prompt by week or by theme. Anyway, here's the prompt:

What are your quilt stories? Why not share one or two with your family--and then write them down! If you don't already have a file folder for your life stories, start one now.

The Etymology: Quilt
OF. coilte, cuilte (mod. couette), with var. coute :- L. culcita mattress, cushion. The fact that "quilt" entered English through Old French makes me wonder if the French introduced quilts to England...and if so, when? Or maybe mattresses and comforters used to be about the same thing, like the Latin term would seem to indicate. Does anyone know?

The Book: The Quiltmaker's Gift, by Jeff Brumbeau
"A New York Times bestseller and a Booksense Book ofthe year, The Quiltmaker’s Gift tell the story of a greedyking, who with the help of a generous quiltmaker, learns to find happiness by giving his possessions away."

My kids and I have all loved the gentle, compelling story in this book and its pairing with rich illustrations. I think we'll pull it out again, wrap up in a quilt, and read!

The Links:
Try this link for applying the ideas in The Quiltmaker's Gift.

Here's a fun paper quilt block activity to try with kids: