Thursday, February 26, 2009

Handmade Heritage.

My apologies for the lack of posts, I've been away visiting my sister in Florida for the past week. Before that, both of my sisters were here visiting. It is always a treat to have the three of us together. While I was away I started a quilt. The pattern? Grandmother's Flower Garden, a classic.
I was inspired by an article in the latest issue of MaryJane's Farm. Karen has just started carrying this magazine in the shop and I am very happy about that. MaryJane is an amazingly talented woman and a good friend. Her magazine makes you feel all warm and cozy inside. We all need a little more of that in our lives. Anyway, the article was about MaryJane's mother and her fascination with hexagons. Well, you just know that any hexagon maven worth their salt is going to have made a hexagon-patterned quilt. Helen Butters made a beauty.
Going to the website, I downloaded the pattern, enlarged it to the size I wanted to work with and printed it out on card stock. Many, many scissor cuts later, I had enough hexagons to get me started.
Now, I am a novice quilter. I do not know all of the ins and outs, but I am trying to learn. My first foray into quilting was through Strip Club and I have been quite content to perch myself in front of the sewing machine and stitch merrily along straight lines to the sounds of Pandora Radio playing in the background. This business of hand-stitching a quilt was a bit intimidating to me. What if I make a mistake? What if my sides don't line up? Ack! I wonder if MaryJane's mom felt this way?
Choosing fabrics from my stash was the easy part. A few choice vintage pieces mixed in with scraps from other projects seemed to just fall together nicely. Reds, yellows and blues abound in merry combinations. This will be a happy quilt.
My first few stitches were a bit timid. "Am I basting these correctly?" I had no idea. But, I plowed ahead and soon a small pile of fabric-covered card stock hexagons began to accumulate.

The itch to make them into a flower was too much for me and I gathered together six small "petals" and a center and began to stitch them together, side by side by side. It was then I realized what I was doing. I was carrying on a tradition of making something by hand of cloth, needle and thread and a whole lot of determination.
I thought of the woman who first cut out this pattern and the thrill she must have felt as it all came together, piece by piece, blossoming into a thing of beauty. I pictured other women doing exactly the same thing- plunging their needles into scraps of cloth and making them into something that would comfort and warm their families and decorate their homes.

The fact that women still turn to that simple, homely task today is a bit of a thumb-of-the-nose at progress. Oh, computerized sewing machines are wonderful (and fast!), but they will never be able to replicate the tiny, irregular stitch created by a woman's hand. Nor should they. When you tug at the seam of a vintage quilt you see them, each one a labor of necessity and love.
I am pretty sure that I will be working on this quilt for a long time. If this past week is any indication, I will probably finish it somewhere around my 52nd birthday. I won't tell you how far away that is, so don't ask. But, finish it I will and hopefully it will live on long after my lifetime and warm future generations of children, grandchildren and so on. A work of art left for them by me, made with a silvery needle and sturdy thread.
Have you created a handmade heritage yet? If so, we would love to hear about it!

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