It was a beautiful day last Sunday, and I hadn’t seen Kath for years, so on a whim, I stopped by and sure enough she put on the coffee and we got caught up. It got me to thinking about the time in my life when we were neighbors, and how I got started quilting. Well, I missed out on the hippie movement, except as a spectator, my mom would have had a fit. But, the back to the land movement in the 70’s was just my style. I lived in a log cabin, gardened, canned, made homemade bread and noodles, even made sauerkraut, although I can’t stand the stuff. Just before the birth of my first child I taught myself to quilt with the help of one of the few quilting books that was around then, The Perfect Patchwork Primer by Beth Gutcheon. I still have the well loved and well worn, black and white book.
Not long after that I decided to join a quilt guild and worked up all my courage to attend a meeting without knowing a soul. The mean age of the group was probably somewhere around sixty, so I immediately gravitated to the two other twenty-something members and we became fast friends. About the same time I started volunteering at Slate Run Historical Farm and talked my two friends in joining too. The farm is a working farm frozen in the 1880’s time period, with volunteers wearing appropriate historical attire and interpreting history in first person. I was in seventh heaven. I got to wear long dresses and quilt all day long, using the treadle sewing machine to piece the tops.
Pretty soon we had a quilting revolution in full swing. We were making and hand quilting tops, including several friendship quilts, sewing a pretend wedding quilt and putting on a quilt show. We started having quilting bees, often after work, with both guys and girls in attendance. It was probably the first time in history that beer has ever been served at a quilting bee.
There is one bee that is forever etched in my mind. My two friends and I were attempting to quilt on a frame in my dining room, but our kids were driving us crazy. Every few minutes some child was crying or whining or having a runny nose. Then, after a while we noticed that we were just getting a ton of work done with no interruptions. UH OH! When six kids under the age of five are quiet for any length of time, something is wrong. I walked around the corner to the living room and stopped breathing for a moment. My son and his cohorts had taken the fireplace shovel and scooped about an inch of ashes from the fireplace, that contained a live fire I might add, onto my coffee table and were running their matchbox cars on the roads they had made in the ashes. As a good mother, (really? you didn’t even notice they were playing with a live fire) I felt the need to provide a terse reprimand without laughing. However, as I looked at the children, it was hard to tell who was who, and I burst out laughing. Their faces were completely covered with ashes, except for white circles around their eyes. They looked like six little raccoons! I laughed until the tears streamed down my face, so I’m not sure if they ever knew they were in trouble. We were extremely lucky that no child was harmed in the making of that quilt, and that I still had a house to call home. What one does in the name of art!
It’s been a long time since those days. My baby is now 31 years old. I still have my children’s baby quilts, and although I have given up traditional quilting, I still remember my quilting roots and try to honor them. If you have a moment, pull out some of your first work and see just how far you have come. And, don’t forget to visit one of your friend’s this week, she might just fix you a cup of coffee and you can reminisce about the good ol’ days.