Thursday, April 21, 2016

Stitching for Sister

When I (Teri) was young—as in the age of bickering with brothers—I always wanted a sister. I remember my mom telling me that women "make their own sisters." I thought that was easy for her to say: she has a sister! But as I've grown older and wiser (like my mom), I have realized the truth of that counsel. In addition to the blessing of my two brothers—with whom I no longer bicker—I have acquired sisters from my school family from my years as a teacher, sisters from my church family, and sisters from my stitching family. But one special sister has gone from being just a sister-in-law to simply being a "sister." To my children, she is their beloved "Aunt Millie." To me, she is my sister.

About ten years ago, when Millie bought her current home, she asked me to make her a table runner for her new dining room set. She told me the colors she wanted, and I set to work, finding a pattern and creating her runner. I chose batiks, which were lovely in the autumn palette she had chosen. Machine quilting is definitely NOT my thing, but I practiced and persevered, figuring this was the perfect size to manage.

A bit of meandering: not my favorite quilting activity

She was so thrilled with that one, she asked if I would make her a Christmas runner, so she could decorate for the holiday. This time, I simply chose a block pattern and used that as the basis for the runner design. I ramped up the quilting a bit, and crazily chose to do some of the quilting with metallic thread. What was I thinking?! But we both loved the effect of the metallic touches on the gold-flecked fabric.

Metallic sparkle in the stars

Free-motion filler in the background

That winter, I took a class in Hampton, Virginia, with Virginia Walton, learning to sew curves. We used gradient hand-dyed fabrics to create curved stars set amidst batik squares. I remember spending a bit too much time in class arranging my stack of 48 batik squares, so that the colors were just right. I never have been able to master "random." I have to carefully work to achieve the random look I want—I call it plandom. Anyway, my husband loved the quilt, so it went to his office. And Millie loved the stars, so I designed a table runner for her. Win, win!

Class quilt on curves: I worked hard to place the warm colors on the diagonal down the middle.

Resulting star design for table runner, and yes—more metallic quilting. Stars need sparkle!

The following summer, I took a class in Hershey, Pennsylvania, on stained-glass quilt designs, with Carol Blevins. The project was a one-block piece, which Millie liked, so I finished it and gave it to her. I then made four more blocks and arranged them to create her "summer runner."


With most of the seasons covered, Millie thought perhaps she should have a wintry design. She chose fabrics that she liked, again batiks, (notice a pattern, here?) and I used Electric Quilt to create the pattern. And now, she had one for each season, and she could change her table runners accordingly. We thought we were finished.

But then I found this line of fabric that screamed at us. We both come from Pennsylvania Dutch (German) roots. The designs in this fabric line tugged on my heart, so I naturally bought yardage, knowing I would find ways to use it. When I showed it to Millie, I knew she would want another runner. And she did, of course! 

We both loved this fabric, so reminiscent of the fraktur and distelfink designs we saw growing up.

Not long ago, I was at her house for lunch, and as we reminisced and I took pictures of her table, she started pointed out colors she liked, just in case I might want to make her another runner . . . 

After all, what are sisters for, anyway? I guess I'd better start designing a new table runner!


  1. These are beautiful! I've been 'meaning to' make table runners for my DIL - these are great 'inspiration' to get at it! :-) I'm glad you finally have your sister. :-) I grew up with 5 brothers... and had 3 sons myself. no girls around.

    1. Thanks, Mary! Hopefully you have made a few of your own sisters to balance all that testosterone!. ;-) Enjoy making your table runners!