My mom sent me to sewing classes in the early 80s. It was during the Stretch and Sew movement, when all earth mothers made tons of t-shirts for their families, striped with contrasting solid color neck and arm bands. I rocked those things in my Dorothy Hamill haircut.
I’m still not sure how I feel about threading a machine, but I did learn that I love to hand sew. I’m pretty good at a straight seam. It’s a very calming and productive way to pass an afternoon.
I have handmade things for my family along the way, most importantly our Christmas stockings, modeled after the ones my mom made for us when I was little.
Last Fall, I got a hankering to make a quilt. I say hankering, because really, what other word is there to describe a desire to make a quilt?
I remember watching my third grandma, Opal, hand stitch hexagons together into quilts. How hard can it be, I thought. And if it is hard, who cares? I’ll be sewing. I had visions of sewing the afternoons away in front of a roaring fire this winter, a new generation of earth mother, proving that all things old are new again.
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Old Man Winter turned his back on So Cal this year. He has his feet planted firmly in the four corner states, facing East and frowning hard.
We haven’t had a fire in so long that there’s a dove nest in our chimney top.
And sewing hexagons into flowers is not as simple as it looks.
I discovered online that this pattern is called “Grandmother’s Garden”. Then I stopped looking online because there was all this talk about English paper piecing and it made me feel like I was missing something. Important.
Instead, I put my head down and made twenty of these:
Then I found a quilting website and sent the nice lady an email describing what I’d done so far and asking for advice on what to do next. How do I make these twenty flowers into a quilt, I asked.
She emailed back and said this: I wish I lived closer. I have no idea what you are trying to do. Good luck!
I retreated from quilting.
One day I noticed a quilting shop tucked in a corner of our town.
“OK”, I told the lady behind the counter, “I’m going to tell you what I did, but please don’t laugh.”
Not only did she not laugh, but she said “I hand sewed a Grandmother’s Garden! It’s right over here!”
She told me exactly what to do next. Then she told me when I finished that part, to bring it in and she would tell me what to do after that. She told me I could hand sew the whole thing, from start to finish.
Even the quilting?
“Well yes, dear. If you’re sure you want to hand quilt it, you can.”
She fired me up. I got right back to quilting, adding the path to my flowers. It’s kind of mathy in a geometry way, which is not my forte, so no surprise that this happened:
On the plus side, I now understand why my hexagons came with a piece of paper that looks like a honeycomb.
This weekend I completed my first row:
It might take me a year to finish, but I don’t care. It’s feeding my soul to make this quilt, to have busy hands even when I am resting. It’s meditation, prayer, creation. And my heart is asking me why women ever walked away from this small work, because there is peace here. I feel there will be more on that later, when I am done.
In the meantime, I have a quilt to sew!