Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Everyone Has A Story - Even A Quilt

Two Writing Teachers

Saturday I was reading Linda Baie's post about the stories from her pottery pieces.  I began thinking about my quilting life and one very special quilt I made.

About 22 years ago, I taught myself how to quilt.  I have always loved old things, and my husband and I have collected quite a few antiques.  Browsing antique shops is where my love of quilts began.  I have actually been sewing for as long as I can remember, so becoming a quilter was a logical step for me.

After making my first quilt, I was hooked.  I bought, stashed, and hid fabric in all kinds of places, hiding it from my husband.  (I still don't think he knows how much fabric I have!)  I love walking through fabric stores and touching all of the beautiful fabrics, imagining the possibilities.

Although I have not quilted in about seven years, (actually since I started teaching!) I still have boxes and boxes of fabric. I have them stored according to their "genre."  I have large cuts - 4 or more yards and small cuts - 1 to 4 yards.  I have boxes of Christmas prints, children's prints, background prints, and solids just to name a few.  My scraps are sorted according to color - cool colors in one box, and warm and neutrals in other boxes.

As my passion for quilting grew, I started going to yard sales and auctions for fabric, quilt squares, or tops.  Once, I found two scrappy quilt tops that were unfinished.  One graces the door on a 120+ year old cabinet that belonged to my husband's grandmother, and the other hangs on a rocker and welcomes visitors on our front porch.

But one summer day, I hit the quilter's jackpot.  I bought five boxes full of nothing but scraps!  Now, to many people this was junk, but to a quilter, this was a treasure!

After I lugged the boxes home and started going through them, I was amazed at not only the amount of fabric, but also the age of the fabric.  Buried in the bottom of the box was a magazine with Elizabeth Taylor on the cover and the date of 1949.  Many of the fabrics in this box, which I still have, are now close to 65 years old.

I began the slow process of pressing, cutting and sewing the scraps into rectangles.  My mind was filled with wonder, filled with the stories these fabrics told.  I am sure there were scraps from kitchen curtains, little girls' and ladies' dresses, as well as men's clothing.  The fabric of these lives slid through my fingers, sharing their secrets.  I would sit at my quilting frame and, stitch by stitch, I listened to their stories.

Stories about marriages and families.
                    ...happy times and sad times.
                              ...new homes and new beginnings.

                                        .....death and endings.

Stories I could only imagine.

After piecing together 227 different squares, my quilt was finally finished.

If you listen carefully, it gently whispers 226 individual, unique stories - 226 different fabrics with only one fabric repeated.  (Although that was not my intention, it does create quite a good conversation!)

This isn't an everyday quilt we use in our home.  It is carefully folded and rests on an antique cabinet in our living room, beckoning for someone to listen to their stories.

Close your eyes.


Can you hear them?


  1. Oooh, I love this! Quilting is such an art, and I admire your patience, creativity, and persistence to be able to be a quilter. Beautiful quilt and beautiful writing - I can see this becoming a larger piece of writing, inspired by that whispering quilt. There's the title - Whispering Quilt. ;-)

  2. I love the way you envision each scrap of fabric talking. This does have the sound of a fun book. I am so jealous of anyone who can quilt. I never developed a love of sewing, but so admire those who can.

  3. My wife is a quilter so I know exactly what you are saying. We just did a fabric run on Friday.

  4. So, so gorgeous, Leigh Anne. You must be so excited to have done this. I wish you could have recorded the stories you imagined as you worked. Perhaps now you can go slowly over it and write! I have an aunt who quilted and stashed fabric everywhere. She was so gifted, is now in a nursing home with Alzeimer's, but her quilts that she made for me are just gorgeous. I also have quilts passed down from Arvie's family, and a few that my mother made, but it was a passing fancy for her, she loved painting more. Thanks for the shout out; stories are just the most special of things to hold onto!

  5. You are so write in your description of hitting the quilter's jackpot. I have made quite a few baby quilts based on parent's themes and hobbies and 2, just two, wedding quilts so far in my lifetime. Each and every one, although not made from antique scraps is special, and each has a story to tell. I can ONLY IMAGINE how your mind wandered as you quilted. My own mind was wandering as I read your piece. LOVELY, just lovely but as teachers there does not seem to be the time to do much, now....later!

  6. I admire anyone who has the patience to sew anything--especially a quilt! Yours are gorgeous. My daughter has started sewing thanks to a grandma and local women who teach the skill. She's even made a quilt for her bed. Next on her projects is a t-shirt quilt. She would love to find a quilting jackpot like you did.

  7. I would love to read the stories you hear. I am an art and history lover so this is the kind of thing I think about, too. It is through our small stories we learn the bigger truths of life I think. This was beautiful to read.

  8. Scraps really are a find for a quilter!

    I haven't quilted in years (though I appreciate it as an art form), but when I think back to it, there's so much quilting has in common with writing.

  9. I took a quilting class once and still have the unfinished quilt... Luckily, I know the instructor and she has promised me that she'll help me finish it when I retire. I too love touching fabric, but have decided that I will quilt potholders, quick projects that will allow me to enjoy the process, but leave me plenty of time for reading. Remind me to share a favorite poem with you about quilting. I'd look for it now, but it's far too late. Your piece was lovely! I love Holly's suggestion - Whispering Quilt!

  10. This post is beautiful, and so is the finished quilt! I especially loved this line: The fabric of these lives slid through my fingers, sharing their secrets. Gorgeous.