Monday, September 29, 2014

Quilts, Pieces and Memories

I wanted to call this post, "Among the Things I Used to Do."

Our lives have seasons. Times change, circumstances change, people change. And the seasons turn from one to another.

One of the things I used to do in another season was quilt.

I love quilting! Everything from designing the quilt top, to selecting the fabrics, to cutting out the pieces with as little waste as possible, to measuring out each length of thread.

I'm an old fashioned quilter. The fewer machines that touch the fabric, the better.

The quilt I'm working on now I was working on before I signed my first book contract is a reproduction of a Civil War era quilt that uses tiny pieces, all hand stitched.

I wonder sometimes if I'll ever get back to it....

But I come from a long line of quilters.

This beautiful quilt was made by my great-great-grandmother, Eliza Mummert Sherck. The pattern is "Mariner's Compass." I mentioned it in my book, A Mother for His Children - it's the quilt Ruthy's mother made for Waneta's future wedding.

A quilt is a legacy of love, passed from one generation to another. Every hand that works on a quilt leaves a little bit of the quilter behind, and every quilter lives on in the quilts that are treasured for years after they pass on.

It's this love of quilting that makes my feet slow down when I pass the quilting room at Greencroft, the Mennonite home where my dad now lives. Go here if you want to learn about this fabulous place.

Down the hall from Dad's apartment is this place where quilters meet. Since we're usually there in the evening or early morning, I don't often see the quilters at work, but I've admired the quilts through the window.

The quilters, all Mennonite and Brethren ladies, with a few Methodists and Baptists, etc. thrown in, always have a quilt in the frame. Most of them are made by ladies in the community who bring their quilts in to be stitched.

The quilters all donate their time, and the money they earn goes to charity.

They stitch everything from quilt tops to wall hangings, and sometimes even a quilt one of their group has pieced.

Stitch by patient stitch.

With a lot of visiting going on around the quilt frame, too!

Before we left Goshen on our last visit there, I peeked in the window of the quilting room, and one of the ladies was already hard at work! It was a pleasure meeting Velma Plank and visiting with her about the Greencroft quilters.

Of course, a double pleasure, since one of my great-great-grandmothers was a Plank, and in Mennonite and Amish Country, that means we're definitely related :)

Velma spoke of the other quilters in the group, some planning to drop by a little later than her 8:00 starting time. But others, she said, gesturing to the photos on the wall with her needle, "have passed on."

Gone, but not forgotten in the quiet conversations around the quilting frame where past memories and present stitching weave through the hours.

It makes me hope that maybe - sometime in the coming years - I'll actually finish all the quilts waiting for me. Someday, when life is slower and friends are even more precious.

Do you quilt? Or is there some other "thing you used to do" that you may take up again someday?


  1. I have an elderly aunt and a younger friend who are both very talented quilters. Me? I began two matching quilts for our youngest daughters when they were pre-teeners. One daughter died years ago and the other is in her mid-forties, and the quilts have never been finished. I love beautiful quilts; they provide such wonderful opportunities for sharing stories, but I long ago accepted that quilting isn't 'my thing'. :)

    1. I'm so sorry about your daughter, Carol. I didn't know that.

      I have several beautiful quilts my grandmother and great grandmother made. They are real treasures.

    2. Carol, that's a story of your heart right there. Everybody leaves something unfinished when they leave us, and I can see the chapters in the folds of those unfinished quilts.

      I'd love to quilt someday, but I don't think it likely. I used to sew and create all kinds of things, but now that I'm writing I think those stories fill that need to create beauty and inspire sighs. To everything there is a season.....

      Jan, I love this post! Heart and soul. I'm smiling, thinking of those women and the beautiful work of their hands. "Prosper the works of our hands..."


    3. Carol, Ruthy's right. Those unfinished quilts tell a story. I'm so sorry that you lost your daughter.

      Virginia, you have a treasure in those quilts! I'm sure you think of your grandmother and great-grandmother every time you see them, and the legacy they passed on to you. Not only the quilts, but also the less tangible qualities they passed on to you and your children :)

      And Ruthy, you're right. That's what always strikes me when I see the quilts the ladies at Greencroft are working on. Even though they are elderly and some in this world would think their lives are ending, every stitch they put into one of those quilts is a beautiful labor of love.

  2. I used to craft angels and all sorts of things. I had a craft booth at a local craft mall too. I was all set to start quilting when I won the Golden Heart and lay all of the fabric aside. Wonderful post, Jan. Perhaps all writers are sewers too.

    Such a treat to hang out with Jan at ACFW2014.

    1. There's a connection between crafting a story and crafting a beautiful piece of art out of fabric, isn't there? With both you need to see the big picture of the finished work, but at the same time we work with incremental words or stitches to build that big picture.

      It was SO good to see you in St. Louis, Tina. AND TO BE THERE WHEN YOU WON THE CAROL AWARD!!!! I'm so stinkin' happy for you :)

  3. MY sister has taken up quilting again. I just collect them. I have always been someone who loves to multitask. And the quilting bees seem to be the best of both worlds. Thanks for sharing this reminder.

    Can we just have a Tina celebration week all week. I got down right teary eyed when her name was announced!

    1. Quilting bees are the ultimate in multi-tasking! Quilting, visiting, snacking...and then you throw a couple children underfoot, and you have a happy hub-bub :)

      I got teary-eyed, too, Julie! And with Mindy a finalist in the same category, I wasn't rooting for any one person but celebrating it all!

    2. Yes, indeed, Mindy we love you too! I was just so glad to see both of you there!

    3. Yes, still celebrating Mindy's final as well! I'm so proud of both of you!

    4. You know it is honestly (and Mindy and I talked about this last week) such an honor to final. To have some intangible in your work that attracts multiple random judges.... that's wonderful! I finaled with my first book out and it was an amazing honor. I still smile when I think of that phone call from Mindy!!!!

  4. Beautiful, Jan! I love the photos of the woman who's probably distantly related!

    My grandmother did a few quilts. Hubby's grandmothers did too. And even my MIL recently gave one to my daughter. Such amazing family heirlooms.

    1. Each quilt is so personal, isn't it? Each quilter puts so much of herself (or himself) into the work. When you use one, it's like getting a hug from years gone by :)

  5. I love quilting but I'm not a quilter. I'm a cheat quilter because I haven't hand quilted anything. I've tried but my stitches look like train tracks! And I've never done triangles or curves. I'm chicken. I stick with squares and rectangles.

    The first quilt I ever made was for my daughter for Christmas. I was broke, broke, broke and had to make her Christmas gifts that year. I used her old clothes and old jeans and made a Trip Around the World quilt top. Didn't have any money to buy batting so I decided to make it into a duvet cover for her old cotton comforter. Used a sheet for the backing. Sounds like kind of a lame gift for an eight-year-old but we'd just finished reading the Little House books and Caddie Woodlawn and she went into a pioneer phase. She LOVED her quilt. Still has it.

    1. Why wouldn't she love that quilt? All of her favorite things, tied in with the pioneer stories, and made by her mother-dear. :) Sweet bliss. I'll bet that it's still one of her treasured possessions!

  6. I love this post, Jan!

    I used to dabble in quilting, but my first love was counted cross stitch. Well, I guess even before that it was rug hooking. I couldn't find the simple Christmas designs that I wanted, so I painted the canvas, bought the yarn, and away I hooked. I still have those 2 rugs, 2x3 feet each and hang them every holiday season. But then when I discovered counted cross stitch, I lay my rug hooking tool down forever.

    Nowadays, I can't do any handcrafts any more because my fingers cramp from the arthritis. It's only the typing that's keeping the gnarls away and so I spend my days keeping them nimble by pounding on the keyboard. Such a chore. :D