Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Learning Journey to Celebrate Fifty Years

Block pattern from a class with Karen Kay Buckley
Sometimes a quilt is so full of stories that it's hard to know which one to tell. This quilt has two distinct stories: one about the making of it, and an even better one about the giving.

When I (Teri) first started quilting, I loved patchwork and machine piecing. There was nothing I didn't want to learn, but I really enjoyed the relative instant gratification of being able to sew quickly and complete a project. My machine afforded me that opportunity. But after a while, I decided to venture out and expand my skills. Kara and I enrolled in a hand appliqué class with Karen Kay Buckley at the Quilt Odyssey show in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Up to this point, I had done one hand appliqué piece, but that didn't deter me from thinking I could master such a complex block. I loved the design, so I was going to give it a try. 

Let's just say that Karen is a wonderful teacher, very patient and attentive—especially to poor souls who are nearing a panic attack. I think I got as far as the serrated leaves before I started wondering what on earth I was thinking, at which time I felt a hand on my shoulder and a concerned, "Are you okay? Do you need some help?" Thankfully, those gold curlicues were almost the last units to appliqué, and I could face them on a day far in the future, with a bit more experience with that needle! I'm not sure I could have handled them on that day. Obviously, I was determined enough to persevere and finish the block, and through its difficulties, I learned a lot. But all the while, I wondered what I would do with this beautiful block, because I was pretty sure a quilt full of such blocks was not in my near future.

Ready for the party, one signature lower left
While I was stitching, I realized that my parents' 50th wedding anniversary was the following year, so I started thinking about making the block the center medallion for a signature quilt for them. I used Electric Quilt to design the surrounding blocks, using snowball blocks for the signatures. I planned to have it ready for signing at the party we were planning for them. My oldest son was about to go overseas and would be gone at that time, so I had him sign his block before it was even pieced.

I'm not going to lie. I thought the whole signing the quilt idea was a great one, but I was a bit terrified about having those pens near that year's worth of work. So I asked a dear angel to "watch over the signing of the quilt," which was all set up in the laundry room so that hopefully my parents wouldn't see it. I had a muslin "quilt sandwich" for people to practice first so they could get the feel of writing on fabric. Close attention was paid to the quilt and the signers so that they all signed in the right direction, and no stray marks were made. Her help was such a blessing!

Quilt set up for signing in the laundry room atop the washer and dryer.

Despite the careful monitoring, one cousin succeeded in signing his square upside down...but truly, it couldn't be more appropriate! We think it adds to the charm of the quilt.

Our house was packed that day with celebrators: family, old friends, and new friends—all joined to pay tribute to my parents. And somehow, they didn't notice that everyone there had at some point stepped into the laundry room, a rather unusual room for guests to visit. We presented the quilt to them just before we cut the cake, and they were quite thrilled. By the party's end, each of the signature squares was filled with good wishes from family and friends.

My parents' home has quite a few examples of my quilt work throughout, demonstrating (at least to me) my journey as a quiltmaker. Of all the quilts/wallhangings I have ever made for them, this is and will likely always be, my favorite. It represents so much more than the many skills I learned. It represents their love for each other over 50 (now almost 60) years of marriage, as well as the love they have poured out for their family and many friends over the years. I believe that I am a blend of both my parents; the older I get, the more I admire them both. I think when I "grow up," I want to be just like them.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for everything. You're the best!