When I decided to make quilts for Hurricane Sandy Families it was very freeing for me. I had amassed a lot of favorite fabrics over the years and this was a way for me to put it all to good use. Rarely do I know anything at all about the recipient. If a friend of a friend asks me to make a quilt for someone the MOST information I get is… “They are a close knit family with three kids”… OR… “The quilt is for a husband and wife, in their early sixties, he likes to fish and she likes cats.” More commonly however, I get no information at all. I have total creative control over the entire project from beginning to end. I choose the design, the fabric, the backing, batting, border and final stitching… and cross my fingers the recipient/s will love it as much as I do.
If I am making a quilt for an organization such as Quilts of Valor… I need to follow their loose guide lines of using Red, White, and Blue fabric with a patriotic design. Again… I still have total control over the creative process… as long as I follow the concept.
Well… this Holiday Season my world got turned upside down. Two special quilts caught me off guard and had me looking at sewing in a whole new light.
Someone I know personally contacted me about making a quilt out of her son’s band shirts. “Sure”, I replied. My mind began planning the quilt before the shirts even arrived. First step would be to get a look at the school colors, and the mascot… then move on from there. I received a plastic bag of shirts a week later and when I opened the bag my jaw dropped to the floor!!!
What I saw before me was nothing but black shirts with names like Mayhem, Doom, Metallica, and others. OH MY!!!! Not at all what I expected. YIKES! Now what? I took a deep breath… re-arranged my thinking… rolled up my sleeves and got to work. My heart just wasn’t into it. I went through the motions cutting up the shirts and tried my best to get enthused… but it just wasn’t happening.
I plodded through and eventually the top was finished, and ready to have the actual quilting done. I dragged my feet. The black and grey was depressing. I had no clue where to even begin. One day I sat down at my sewing machine, resolute to finish this thing and get it the heck out of my house. Ick!!
Placing the quilt under the presser foot, I sighed. Slowly I started stitching… black thread on grey fabric… blah. My mind went on cruise control. Thinking about the recipient of this quilt… a young man in his early twenties. He wouldn’t want a prissy, perfectly executed quilt. The light bulb over my head flashed BRIGHT… like a neon sign!! My hands started moving on their own in a different pattern. All the rules I have learned about quilting flew out the window. Leaving raw edges frayed, not following a straight line… the quilt was telling me what to do!!!
It turned out AWESOME!!! Edgy!! Perfect for a guy his age. Nothing at all what I envisioned when I first received the call about making the quilt.
I know his mother, the client… loved it. I can’t wait to hear his reaction!!!
A young woman called and explained her father passed away 4 years ago, he always wore polo shirts, was a ham radio operator with a call sign… and asked if I would possibly consider making a memorial quilt out of his shirts as a surprise Christmas gift for her mother. Again I answered, “Sure.” And again I began designing the quilt before seeing the shirts. I envisioned ham radio logos, graphics, call signs and such. I was excited to get started.
The shirts arrived, I opened the bag, I pulled the shirts out and saw regular, plain, solid colored, well worn and well loved polos. Remnants of the life of a loved one… and this person, whom I have never met, trusted me to make something wonderful of them. Speak about PRESSURE!
I learned my lesson from the previous quilt. Let the shirts speak to me. Let the quilt design itself. “I am just the instrument”, became my constant mantra.
The first thing I did was to dump the shirts out onto my dining table and mix them up in a huge messy pile. With no preconceived plan, and a pair of scissors in my hand… I started cutting up the shirts. My heart was racing, not knowing what my hands were going to do… but I let them do what they wanted… and WOW was I amazed at the result!!!
Being guided by some other force… I cut and sewed, and sewed and cut until I finally came up for air. Shirt fabric flying left and right, I felt like Edward Scissorhands! Again… this quilt designed itself… and I couldn’t have been more pleased!!
The block I am most proud of is the one with the CALL SIGN. The young woman told me the story of how her dad came to her in a dream and told her the call letters… W3GWW. I sewed a block of stripes, then appliqued the letters. Zigzagging around each one brought back memories of the hours and hours I spent sewing High School Band jackets and hundreds of ice hockey jerseys ‘back in the day’. I still have the skills!! Woo! Hoo!
I am honored to play a small part in the these families Christmases. Both will have an heirloom to treasure forever… and I helped to make it happen.
And THAT is what makes Christmas special to me!!!
Merry Christmas to one and all!!!!