Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hers and Mine

The day I finished my first actual quilting was the day this blog began. In the past I'd dabbled--a hand-made tufted doll's quilt stuffed with teddy bear innards, for example--but never before had I gone through the trouble of sandwiching cotton batting between two pieces of calico and running stitches through them. My creation? Coasters! Initially I wanted an easy holiday project to do with friends. Turns out these puppies are much more labor-intensive than anticipated. I wouldn't wish them on casual sewers. However, I have stacks cut and ready to be worked into gift form. I wouldn't be surprised if five or six sets end up in stockings or under deserving trees in a few months.

For the project I chose one of my favorite fabrics, one I'd been hoarding for something special.

As a comparison, here are snapshots of Lilian's quilt. I look forward to the day where family stories are told as children trace the edges and stains:  "The orange ink is from your mother's pen. One day she left the cap off as she was writing about your father, long before you were born, but not before you were a dream in their hearts. Your mother absentmindedly set the pen down on the quilt and walked away. When she got back there was orange ink everywhere! She was so upset thinking she'd ruined something so precious, thinking of you and how she could tell you about it one day." Or so we might say.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

...Until You Know Where You've Been

Several years ago at Christmas my mother was so proud of herself. For once she'd picked out an excellent gift for both my brother and me:  our own copies of the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, the standard red-and-white gingham tome that was our culinary bible as children. My brother and I were thrilled! My mother doubted she could duplicate her success.

A few years later, we found ourselves home for the holidays once again. I don't remember how it came about, but the cedar chest was opened and quilts and afghans came out. The bright yellow and blue crocheted blanket my grandmother created was followed by scratchy coverlets from Christmases past. And then my mother brought out two hand-pieced quilts. One was made of tiny squares in a cacophony of colors, one was of hexagons and triangles in faded turquoise and purple. My brother fell in love with the squares. The colors of the later spoke to my heart. My mother had done it again. Squares to California, turquoise to me! What treasured gifts unexpectedly given.

My aunt knew where the quilts' history. They were made by my great-grandmother, Lilian Catherine. Lilian was half Cherokee and lived in the hills and hollers of the southern Appalachians. Her gentle stitches that grace my bed have traced a path down generations to work their way straight through my fingertips. 

This blog is in Lilian's honor and in honor of the beautiful Southern women of my family who have chosen to create by hand the pieces that shape my memories and so many others'. I hope to chronicle my own hand-sewn work as well as celebrate my mother's, grandmother's and great-grandmother's. In so doing may I weave a tapestry that both reflects my heritage and preserves a slice of sweet Southern legacy ere it pass into legend. Take your shoes off, prop your feet up and let your heart unwind for awhile. Stay around a bit--the weather's fine.