Thursday, July 23, 2009

Many Hands

I don't think I've ever posted this quilt. It belongs to DS1. He's had it about six years now and it recently came to visit so it could be repaired. But the story of its creation is worth telling.

It was the fall of 1994 and Nathan asked for a new quilt. He was in eighth grade and had outgrown the first quilt I'd made him. I chose this pattern - Barrister's block, picked the colors and began making blocks. I got maybe four or five pieced before I laid it out and when I did, I hated it. But I didn't know why. I threw it into the closet and it sat for about two years. One day I took another look at it and realized I'd sewn the hst's to the main portion backwards in each instance; I had the negative instead of the positive of the pattern. I ripped them out and repaired them, then went on to make about six more. When I laid it out again there was something less than exciting about it and my enthusiasm took a nose dive; back into the closet it went.

A couple of years went by, Nathan entered high school. He'd ask once in awhile how his quilt was coming, but I always mumbled something about 'someday' and went on with other quilts.

I got the blocks out again and when I laid them out it was obvious to me that they were too big, there wasn't enough visual movement. Each Barrister's block should be 12", the quarter-sections should be 6", not 12". I took all the blocks apart a second time, cut them down and put them back together. That fixed it and I liked it again, I was back on the job!

Originally the quilt was going to be 4 x 6 blocks with a single border but now Nathan was a sophomore and nearly 6'1". I expanded the layout to 6 x 8 and planned to use the bonus hst's in a border. He asked if I thought I'd have it done as a graduation present, but it didn't seem likely.

Five years into the quilt I had enough blocks pieced that I was pretty sure of my layout. I made too many red blocks and it over balanced the look I wanted. I pulled out some of the red blocks and set them aside. That winter, they found their way into a wall hanging for my sister-in-law as a Christmas gift. She was thrilled and displays it year round. Nathan pointed out that Aunt Lynnette got her quilt before he got his and his had been started first...

About this time he made a close friend on the internet and they become constant, virtual companions; emailing and chatting daily. It was new and exciting to have a friend from another state to share and connect with. But with time, the distant became a strain; she lived in Kansas. I pointed out that another name for the quilt pattern was Kansas Troubles; Nathan just sighed.

The top was done and I decided to machine quilt it myself. I did miles and miles of stipling in the background, because that's what it seemed to ask for but then I was stumped by how to quilt the blocks and borders. I decided they needed hand quilting so I began that process.

After Nathan graduated high school and moved away to college he asked me if I thought he might receive it as his Freedom Quilt. He'd heard the story of young men receiving a quilt as a gift on their 21 birthday as a symbol of their freedom. He turned 21 on March 2006, but I was still a long way from finished. He began teasing me that at this rate, it might become his wedding quilt. Well that wasn't likely, he didn't even have a girl friend! But I took his point.

That fall, after much trial and error I finished, stitched the label in place and gave it to him. He was thrilled! What a patient young man.

Nine years is a long time but I learned a few things along the way, and I think sometimes if I stick with my quilts they teach me.


Shasta said...

It is a beautiful quilt - I am sure it was worth the wait.

Vivian said...

Darla Jo of the "Saturday Sails" blog (6/8/09 post) said it best:

"The patience and discipline in quilting comes with being able to see both the whole without being overwhelmed and the pieces/steps to getting there without being put off by the possible tedium. Persistence is also important, to keep on keeping on. At least that way you continue to make headway, even if only a seam or two a day."

And the thank you smile of a son is a good motivator too!

Fabricfaire said...

What a sweet story and a sweet ending!