Thursday, May 31, 2012

One Quilt, Two Women

Don't you love how every quilt has a story!  Here is my version of a story that is quite common among quilters.  

Meet Lydia Fields, my husband's maternal grandmother.  She was born August 4, 1911.   Here she is at age 19 in 1930.  Isn't she a beauty! 

Lydia and Hayden 1931

This is Lydia with her young family in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1941.  Still beautiful and look at those boys!  All three of them! ;) Quite handsome!

 In 1938, at the age of 27, she had a two year old son and a one year old son.  I know I would not want to start the ambitious project of learning how to quilt in this day and age with all the demands of two babies!  But that is exactly what she did in the late 1930's!  She had a lady teaching her, but before the quilt blocks could be put together, the lady moved; at least that's the story.  She had put together 28 blocks, and then stopped.  The blocks were tucked away in a dresser drawer and forgotten and that was the end of that.  No more quilts were attempted.  She went on to have 2 more children, both girls, one of which is my husband's mother.  Years and years went by, a lifetime of living and loving, grandchildren, and then great-grandchildren.  Family traditions, faith, and love grew with the family.  Through good times and bad, her love for God and family was always there!  Most of the grandchildren spent summers there, helping with the garden, going along on their grandfather's mail route, spending treasured time with loving grandparents who instilled the Christian faith and work ethic in them.  Ah, the stories they all tell!

Hayden and Lydia 1996
65th Wedding Anniversary

Sadly, inevitably, a devastating event ocurred.  Her beloved husband passed away at the age of 87 in May of 1998.  They had married on Christmas Day 1931.   Such sadness for all the family.  Lydia's love for her Lord carried her through this difficult time with great strength of character.  Shortly after her husband's death, she made the decision to move into an assisted living home.  And once again, she accepted all that goes along with that decision with tremendous grace.  Never a word of self-pity. 

During the course of breaking up housekeeping, the quilt blocks made decades before were discovered.  What a surprise!  Her daughter, my husband's mother, asked me to finish the quilt that Lydia had started all those years ago.  I would finish it for her and then when the time came, it would be passed down to my son.  What an honor!  By this time, though, Lydia could not remember how it was supposed to be put together, if it was meant to be one quilt or two.  She did remember the year and the story of the quilt teacher.  It was up to me to decide what to do.

So now, my story with this quilt begins.  By Christmas 1998, I had half of it put together.  I had worked quickly!  I took it with me everywhere and worked on it and nothing else, both inside and outside the home.

However, even though I had made quilts before and had been sewing since I was a child, I still had a lot to learn about quilting.  Mistakes were made.  Bad decisions were made.  Though I started it so eagerly, the quilt became a burden and a discouraging disappointment.  It was put on the back burner of projects because it was just so overwhelming and I dreaded working on it.  Finally, I realized that for me to finish this quilt, I was going to have to start completely over and do it right.  My husband agreed and the immense task of undoing everything I had done began (I had about 1/4 of it hand quilted by then).  I took the quilting stitches out.  I unsewed all the pieces from each block, because some had maybe three threads for a seam allowance and some had half an inch!   I took the bad fabric out; replaced the thin, frayed fabric with some new fabric and some vintage fabric from my mother's parents' clothes.  I redesigned the layout so it wouldn't be so massive.  Then I began putting all the pieces back together again.  All hand piecing.  I did not work on it exclusively and sad to say, months and months went by when I didn't even look at it.  I would work on it a little bit, get discouraged, and once again put it aside.  It was so overwhelming.  I'm ashamed to say I didn't get it done before Lydia died.  I just didn't and I'll always be disappointed in myself about that.  When I realized that my husband's parents' 50th anniversary would be in 2012, I set my goal to get this quilt completed in time to give it to them at their celebration.  A challenging deadline, but a necessary one.

By May of last year, 2011, I had several quilt blocks done.  Then life changed.  My mom was in serious decline, my husband decided to retire from the Army, we had to prepare for a move and we didn't know where we were going.  We made the decision for me to stay with my parents and help them out.  By the time we moved in August, my husband had a job and an apartment all lined up.  I packed all the supplies I needed to work on the quilt at my parents' house and I'm so thankful I did.  Day after day, for 3 weeks, I pieced blocks together sitting at my mom's side.  She was so encouraging as usual.  She thought the blocks were just beautiful.  When I showed her the blocks that I made using her parents' clothing, she looked at me with awe.  And then said she remembered those clothes! 

After she died in September, I stayed with my dad for several months.  I continued to work on the blocks, determined to get it done. 

I had a design all drawn out, similar to the first one which was from the book, Patchwork Gems.

In the meantime, my husband had found us a place to live.  (On a side note, I issued him a challenge.  I told him I could probably finish the quilt before he found us a place to live.  I lost that challenge but got a wonderful home!)  He came and got me and all my stuff from my dad's house and I arrived at our home in February.  We didn't have our household goods yet, so I had time to work diligently on the sashing.  Our household goods arrived in March and of course, unpacking had to be done.  Once the bulk of that had been done, I got right back to working on the quilt.  Time was getting close!  Putting the quilt all together went quickly and then before I knew it was done! 

Here I am with the backing taped to the hardwood floor, which, by the way, my husband refinished throughout the house before he moved me here...the floors are beautiful! 

Next step is the batting and then the quilt top.  I smoothed it all out and then just when I thought it was done, I noticed a HUGE mistake!  I could not believe it!  How did I do this?!  How did I MISS this?!

That was the last block I had sewn in and being in such a hurry because it was the last block, I didn't pay close enough attention.  So, of course, unsewing once again.

Finally, the quilt is corrected and all basted!

The following pictures are of the quilting.  As you can see, my sewing room is not set up!  I cleared just enough space to do the quilting.

Here is the back showing the quilting.

 Some of the blocks.

The brown print in this block is from my grandmother's dress.

The red print in this block is from my grandfather's pajamas!

Here I am sewing on the binding.

During one of my visits with Lydia, I had her write her signature and the date on a piece of paper, knowing that I would put it on the quilt or the label.  I'm so thankful I did that!  It's faintly written in pencil in this picture.

Sometime ago a friend had told me I needed to sign my quilts, not use the computer font for my name on the label. I pooh-poohed that idea, telling her, "But my signature is not pretty and the computer makes it much more legible!" I have now changed my mind.  When I saw Lydia's signature on the quilt, I was overcome with emotion and just stood there and cried.  How many times had I seen that signature on cards and letters and always signed with love?!  I didn't realize how powerful a signature could be until that moment.  It is her signature.  I will now sign my quilts, not just print my name on the computer.  I embroidered the signatures after the quilt was quilted.

In the October/November 2009 issue of "Quilter's Newsletter", they had a picture of an antique quilt dated 1890-1900 set in a similar fashion.  It was called "Diamond Fields".  Lydia's last name is Fields so it became "Lydia's Diamond Fields".  

This quilt has several special things about it.  Started by Lydia in 1938, finished by me, her grandson's wife in 2012.  Made for her daughter and then to be passed down to my son, Lydia's great-grandson.  It incorporates fabric from my family, Brandon's great-grandparents.  Hand-pieced the way Lydia started it and finished with my machine quilting. 

The finished quilt!

The quilt with Lydia's daughter, Carol and my son, Lydia's great-grandson, Brandon.

And now for some technical information.  This is the first quilt that I kept track of my quilting time.  Over 11 days, it took me 28 hours and 53 minutes to quilt this quilt.  I did not quilt every day!  I used 2 spools of Aurifil thread, just a small amount from the second spool.  I used 12 bobbins, all from the same spool as the quilting.  It finishes after washing to 75 1/2" by 101 1/2".  There are 2,271 hexagons in it.  It is quilted with a continuous line. 

I cannot tell you how pleased, relieved, and excited I am to have this quilt finally done!  And with time to spare before the 50th celebration! 


Friday, May 25, 2012

New baby

Here I am again.   And this time I am not late...well at least not very!
Some time ago a young couple moved into the house across the street from Mom and Dad.  Mom and Dad got to the point that they were calling them their other kids and keeping tabs on them. Well, they just had a brand new baby boy.  Since Momma died, the couple have reversed roles and are keeping tabs on Dad.  Since they are being "my eyes and ears" so to speak, I decided to get a quilt finished for the baby.  A week or so ago, I went over to do a few things for Dad and to present the quilt to them.  I think they liked it. Christy just kept saying..."You made hand?" Yes, with a lot of help from my sewing machine.

And here's the baby!........

He is a tiny little thing but perfectly healthy. He was early and only 5 pounds. None of my children were ever that small!


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