Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My Cathedral Window Quilt........

When my mother retired, it was a shock to all of us. Not that she didn't deserve it, after all those years of working hard, mostly in a man's world, and raising 5 kids mostly on her own. We just never thought she'd actually do it. She has always been busy, always HAD to be busy, and we didn't think she would actually turn loose of the business she had built from nothing. But she sold the company to my cousin and her husband, so Mom felt like it was in good hands.

She suddenly had all this time on her hands. She had always been excellent with a needle and thread, although for years I thought it was required to curse when you sewed. Mom had never really been the arts-and-crafts type; she leaned more toward things that were practical and useful. (Remind me to tell you about the package she sent to me at summer camp. I was warped for life.) So she went on this crusade to make each of her children (4 living) and grandchildren (6 at the time.....I think) his or her own personal quilt. She didn't go in any particular order, but as soon as she was finished with one quilt, she would begin the next one. She picked out some intricate and elaborate patterns, and I swear I can't figure out how she knows how to put some of them together. When it came my turn, she asked me what kind of quilt I wanted. I knew immediately, because I had seen one at a fair or festival or something, and I fell in love with the pattern as soon as I saw it.

I wanted a cathedral window quilt. I loved the randomness of its colors, yet the symmetry of its style. I had to have one.

"Are you crazy?" Mom asked, her mouth hanging open. "That one is too hard! It'll take forever. I'll show you how to make it, and you can make your own."

I love a challenge, and I had to have that quilt. And I have always enjoyed making things with my hands: counted cross stitch, crochet, scrapbooking. I tend to be slightly manic about it all, creating obsessively for a long period of time and then just shutting down completely.

She did make me a quilt, a pinwheel design with lots of yellow in it (my favorite color). She even made two matching pillow shams and sewed zippers into them. But it wasn't the quilt I wanted. I pined for the cathedral window. I dreamed about it.

So Mom showed me how to make my cathedral window quilt. I worked diligently on it, and it was an excellent activity to keep my hands busy after I quit smoking. Okay, I have just admitted that I started this quilt 16 years ago and I'm still not finished with it.

The cathedral window quilt is not only beautiful and colorful, it's a finish-as-you-go project. You quilt as you go, so there is none of that putting it in a frame and sewing on it SOME MORE just when you've become sick of the whole thing. The steps for making this one are varied enough so that just as you've reached the point of being sick of doing the same thing over and over, it's time to do something new.

I look at the squares of my quilt that I've actually finished, and I can see fabric from my past in it. There are the pink floral patches that were made from curtains in my bedroom when I was about ten years old. Actually, they started out as pink floral sheets, and Mom made EVERYTHING in my bedroom from them. Understand....I'm not a pink floral kind of girl.

There is a lavender square with tiny black polka dots that I used to make one of the few dresses I've ever sewn. It's just not my talent. I can read the pattern, understand what it wants me to do, and I TELL my hands to do it, but somewhere between my brain and the sewing machine needle, all communication breaks down.

There are several squares of fabric from cute little outfits that Mom made for Sweet Girl when she was just a toddler. Back when I could still get her to wear a dress and put her hair in pigtails.

And okay, I admit it, there are a gazillion squares that I just went to Wal-Mart and bought. If I had to make a quilt just out of fabric pieces that I happen to have on hand, it wouldn't even keep a Barbie doll warm.

Back to me making my own quilt. I'm very proud of the progress I've made on it, and I swear I'll finish it someday. Even if I do have to reteach myself every time I pick it up again just what to do in each step. I'll get it. And I'll appreciate that I made it with my own two hands, and I'll be able to pass it down to Sweet Girl, or my grandchildren, or HER grandchildren, since that's probably when I'll actually finish it.

But there will always be just a touch of a sting to the whole project.

Remember how I told you that Mom said, "Are you crazy? That one is too hard! It'll take forever. I'll show you how to make it, and you can make your own"? Of course you's right up there between two of the pictures I posted.

She made one for my sister.


Anonymous said...

does your mother know my mother? they'd get along so well!

hmsklgrma said...

It is lovely! Congratulations! We all have those "stings" don't we. We go on and appreciate what we do have.

Now- what size is your quilt? I am still looking for the amount of yardage to purchase for the background to get started on my Grandson's wedding present. Hope it doesn't take me 16 years.