It’s “girls day out” with my friend Tina.
We started our morning with a trip to the River Daze Café (Hood River) for a fantastic latte’ and a super tasty breakfast sandwich. Yum…This was made even better by the stimulating company and easy conversation that only happens when you are spending time with a good friend.
Then, we headed out for the main event of the day. The Columbia River Gorge Quilt Show. Tina had selected this outing since she knew of my love of fabric and quilting, but we were both treated to such a wonderful and beautiful experience that left me feeling nostalgic and inspired. I know for sure that as we left after two hours, Tina had a developed a deeper appreciation and new found love for the art of quilting.
I did not grow up with sewing. It is something that I was exposed to upon my marriage into a frugal Mennonite family. My mother-in-law was an avid sewer and quilter. While her quilts were truly beautiful, her main purpose in creating them was to use up fabric from worn out clothes and to make something that would help keep her family warm at night. In her later years, after the kids had all left home, she would spend the winter months making tied quilts and comforters that she donated by the boxful to the street missions in Portland. I learned from one of the best. Cutting out hundreds of little squares from odd left-over pieces of clothing and fabric. Then sewing them into a traditional pattern. She had a way of making her quilts look like stepping stones moving through a bright colorful flower garden. Then she would layer the top, the batting and the backing. The final step, and one that I realize now might possibly be becoming a lost art, was to hand stitch/quilt all the layers together with little tiny precise hand stitches. To read a special story about my mother-in-law and the quilt that took me 20 years to complete click here.
My grandmother also had this love and talent for quilting, taking years of fabric scraps and putting them together in patterns handed down through generations of hardy pioneer and depression era women. Taking something utilitarian and turning it into art. She had a blanket chest upstairs in the guest bedroom that was filled with quilts, rarely used, and marked with names of children and grandchildren. She wanted to be sure that her family legacy lived on through these beautiful blankets. I’m sure she would be appalled that most of us can’t bear to use them on our everyday beds for fear of too much wear and tear on something that could never be replaced.
I recently had the joy and privilege of helping my niece Jessica, a recipient of one of grandma’s quilts, restore and repair some blocks that had over time just disappeared. It was a fan pattern with purple prints from the 1930’s and 40’s. We spent one whole day carefully evaluating scraps from my storehouse of fabric before we finally selected three that fit the style and era of the original pieces. Then I taught her how to carefully stitch and applique the pieces into the fan pattern with tiny invisible stitches. It was a labor of love to say the least. But we ventured on, intent on accomplishing the task at hand. Jessica never had an opportunity to know her great grandmother, but as we sat there sewing and talking, it was as if they were connecting through time with every punch and pull of the needle and thread. Grandma would have loved that. She may have had to chuckle a bit though. We were patching… a patchwork quilt.
There were two sections of the quilt show that I totally loved today. One was a challenge section for quilters to create a self-portrait using fabric and other materials. These were not my mother-in-law’s quilts to be sure. They were pure art. But they were so unique and interesting and spoke volumes of what the creator was all about. My favorite was one by Hood River native Marbe Cook of her on a vespa, titled “My Ride – Summer of 1963”. Fantastic.
The other display that I was drawn to were the quilts created and inspired by literature. Kind of like book covers in fabric. So distinctive, interesting and truly beautiful. My personal favorite was called The Blue Chair (sorry, I didn’t write down the creator’s name and she does deserve the credit), (and thanks Denise Watson for letting me use your photo).
I even found a treasure in the “garage sale” section of the show which will soon become a special pillow for a good friend that just moved away. She will love it!
Sewing to me, is all about connecting and putting things together to make something beautiful and special. I think that is also what life is supposed to be. Finding those scraps of beauty and then making something totally unique and unexpected that can be shared and treasured by those around us. A quilt makes us warm, just as love warms our heart and soul.