When I was ten years old my grandmother taught me to quilt. Now just how this came about has been a topic of discussion over the years. My grandmother claimed that she was trying to find something to keep me occupied while I was trapped inside during the winter because of my asthma. The rest of my brothers were able to play outside in the snow, but the cold would set off my asthma so I needed to stay inside.
My recollection is a little different. I remember that I asked for one too many quilts and my grandmother informed me “you have two hands and can make it yourself.” I have a feeling that the truth lies somewhere in between. No matter what the reason, we could never have imagined where quilting would take me over the years.
The first quilt was made from 6-inch squares of fabric we cut from the scraps she had in her closet from making clothes for her ten kids over the years. The collection of fabrics varied greatly, from seed sack fabric to vivid prints from the 60s and early 70s. Somehow I was able to arrange them in an acceptable pattern and piece them together.
Now we’re not going to talk about whether all the corners matched up because what was important was the sense of accomplishment I felt when I was done piecing that top. Later on we set up the quilting frame on the backs of dining room chairs in the living room and we used yarn to “tie” the quilt. My grandmother didn’t have time to hand quilt her quilt tops so tieing quilts was the best way to finish quilts for her.
In 1992 my wife and I wrote a book for Chilton Book Company and were able to share it with my grandmother. I’m sure she wondered to herself a bit when she saw quilts being used as art on the walls and as, of all things, a shower curtain. To her quilts were a utilitarian item to be used to keep you warm.
In the years that followed I was lucky enough to present my grandmother with an oversized lap quilt that I had designed and hand quilted especially for her. She was so happy to receive the quilt. In all the years of her making quilts, I think this was the first quilt that someone had made specifically for her.
Sometimes we forget that a quilter like ourselves can get great pleasure from receiving a quilt as a gift. We assume since they can make them they don’t need to receive them. But I can tell you from first-hand experience that as a quilter it is great to receive a quilt that someone has made specifically for you. My wife surprised me a few years ago at Christmas with a quilt she had made just for me. I know the amount of work that goes into making a quilt and appreciate all the time and effort she put into it.
So find a quilter out there that you think deserves a quilt and get to making them one. You’ll be glad you did!