Author Elizabeth Gilbert (whose book inspired my blog title) says that humans have been making things more decorative and elaborate than they need to be ever since the dawn of time. We’re born with a creative urge that wants to take on the shape of the gifts we’re given. Expressing that creativity puts us on track for some pretty amazing experiences. This is a tale of one that spans generations.
Page from a 1960’s Lee Wards catalogue for sale on Ebay
My mom, her mother (Baba), my sisters and I were fans of the Lee Wards catalogue which sold needle work kits and supplies. Mom also got the McCalls craft magazine that had all kinds of patterns in it. She made every kind of home decor item or piece of clothing that you could imagine, not to mention amazing clothes for our Barbies.
Dad was a “maker”, too. He built the cabinets in our house and was always tinkering. He and my uncles even installed bathrooms for all the relatives as we left the outhouses behind.
Baba crocheted and embroidered and quilted. She made sure we got busy on pillow cases and dresser scarves for our hope chests by the time we were in grade school.
Our other Grandma made pajamas every year for her 26 grandchildren and they all fit or you grew into them. We loved the flannel especially since the coal furnace cooled down over night.
My sisters and I learned all kinds of skills and keep right on making. Kathy, is an expert knitter who makes adorable clothes and toys for her grandchildren. Carol is addicted to home improvements. Joyce makes music. Theresa is quite a cook. The extended family is no different. They all have their specialties. My cousin Emilie paints the most exquisite Ukrainian eggs and her sister, Bernie makes quilts. My cousin Rose makes cards and gifts for veterans in hospice. I could probably list something for all my dozens of cousins but you get the picture.
So if I’m a maker, I come by it honestly. I haven’t posted much for months. First I was caught up chasing fall color with a paint brush. Then I was on a mission to finish a family heirloom by Christmas.
A year and a half ago, I began to hand-quilt a piece that Baba, began in the 1950’s or 60’s. She appliquéd the pansies from a kit (probably from the Lee Wards catalogue) and embroidered it but never started the quilting . It sat in a pillowcase at my mom’s house for decades. On Mom’s 80th birthday she gave my four sisters and I the quilts that her mother had made along with one that she won a prize for at the Belmont County Fair.
Mom kept the five quilt tops that remained unquilted. She wanted to find someone who might be willing to do the hand quilting authentic to the time period. Her cousin, Emily Klaczak, agreed to do the morning glory quilt and started in May 2015. After some hesitation about the work involved I decided to take on the pansies.
Emily and Mom with the morning glory quilt
Mom and I looked at dozens of quilting templates on-line to choose designs for the border. We found a continuous string of butterflies that she really liked and a curved design for the outer border. I bought a tubular quilting frame and got started a few weeks after Emily.
I quilted a little bit most days, usually one episode-worth of whatever I was watching on Netflix. It was slow going, starting from the center outward. The straight lines went more quickly than those butterflies! I didn’t really have a deadline but Emily finished hers by our family reunion in July 2016 so I thought I’d better pick up the pace. That’s how Christmas became my goal. I got finished about 15 minutes before it was time to leave for mass on Christmas Eve. So there are two morals to this story:
- celebrate all the “makers” in your life; and
- don’t give up on those unfinished projects no matter how long they take!
Detail of the quilt border