When I was more youthful I always had the urge to sew. My Grandmother bought me a used machine and I sewed my doll clothes and some simple drawstring shorts. It was then I felt the creative juices flow, but did not know exactly at the time what that all meant. Then when I was a teenager, I had seen a Nancy Zieman show on PBS using the new fangled rotary cutter and thought to myself I could so do that. In the next 5 years I made two quilt tops and countless other sewn projects. The quilt tops got to the top point and then I had not a clue what to do next. I just didn’t know how or where to get materials to finish the top, as this was before the internet. The women in my inner circle were not quilters so I did not have the advice that I so needed. I ended up selling those tops on a yard sale for $15 each. I think that is the amount of money I had in them. I still remember the woman who bought them. I live in a small town and she was the crazy lunch lady at school. I wonder if she ever did anything with them?
Fast forward 8 years and the death of my Grandmother. When she passed my Grandfather wanted us to bag up her clothes and take them to the Salvation Army for donation. The whole time we were bagging them up, I kept thinking in the back of my mind, uh Dawn you need to keep these and make a memory quilt out of it for him. It gnawed and gnawed. And I said nothing. And regretted that one moment in time, lost forever. That is when the idea was born. My deep genes spoke to me and I knew I was a quilter. Fast forward another 7 years with my Grandfathers passing. This time I spoke up and took every stitch of his clothing as well as my Grandmother fabric stash which was forgotten in the storage room.
My Grandfather lived through the depression and seemed to save what I would consider trash, but he deemed useful. In our efforts of the purge of his “collections”, we had come across some weird things. One was a huge stash of toilet paper. I guess he always bought on sale and it piled up (odd because he had a colostomy and would never use it). So that year as a gag gift I got toilet paper for Christmas which made me cry because it was something my Grandfather purchased. The other odd thing was his worry about losing power which would then affect the water pump on the farm, which would equal not being able to flush the toilets. He started collecting every milk jug/juice jug and filled them with tap water so he could flush the toilets. His worry could have been from the 1999 millennium scare of everything shutting down.
So fast forward 1 year to 2002. I decided to make a memory quilt for my parents as a Christmas present. And since I had found a long armer to finish the top, I knew this one was going all the way. I made them a farmers daughter quilt top. My points were imperfect and seeing it today, I see how refined my skills have become. I also wanted to make another memory quilt for my Aunt. And come up with an idea of preserving his clothing in jars on a shelf much like the water he collected and saved for the toilets. I don’t have a picture of this quilt, but the jar idea on preserving the past was a perfect memory quilt for the situation.
Fast forward another 15 years to present day. I have this worn tattered quilt for my children’s crib and always wondered who made it. I knew my Grandmother knew how to sew, but did not believe she made it. This quilt was used and abused. It was formerly mine and my mother who kept it safe all those years and all those moves, gave it to me for my children to use. It was still vibrant with color and not a rag at the time. When the family got together this summer, I asked my Aunt who made the quilt. My Great Grandmother was her answer. I felt my face turn white. My Great Grandmother…..it sunk in. I discontinued use of this quilt. Amazingly it is still holding together with frayed edges. Something that surrounded me with love in my first years…..perhaps planting the seed of the memory quilts mentioned above.
So now life made a little more sense. I know deep down that I have inherited the quilter gene. Thanks Great Grandma, RIP!