300 Quilts · Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt · Quilt Finish

Sunflowers for a Daughter-in-Law • Quilt Finish

Sunflowers for Kim, Quilt #268, 62″ square

It takes a lot of steps to make a dance, a lot of pages to make a book and a lot of pieces to make a quilt.

Relationships are similarly intricate, especially the relationship between a mother-in-law (MIL) and her daughter-in-law. In my first marriage, I tried to develop a relationship with my new mother-in-law, but she and I were just too different to make it. When the son of this woman and I divorced, we made a deal: I’ll take the children to see my parents, and you you take the children to see yours. Within eighteen months time, we’d split the property, I’d met my Real Husband, and he and I married and moved to Southern California.

A few months later, I tasked the children with cleaning out their closets, and one of the kids handed me an unopened envelope from the former MIL. I opened it gingerly, and in it she took me to task for moving her grandchildren away from her, and for generally ruining most everything. I don’t know what happened to that letter, but now, thirty-plus years later, I recognize how right she was. I did move away, I did take the children some distance. But I also recognized her sorrow and from then on sent her school pictures, short notes, had the children write letters, trying to keep up a connection that her son was unwilling to do. I never saw her again in person, but mourned her when she died.

When my sons married, it was my turn. I have found in moving through the world, you either love your mother-in-law or she drives you crazy. There doesn’t seem to be too many in the middle. Sometimes we love our MILs because they raised our husbands, and we give them the respect owed to them for bringing us this wonderful human. Other times we wondered what in heavens’ name they were thinking to raise someone who _________ (fill in the blank). Sometimes we form a close enough bond that we move in sync, and there is no competition. However, mostly as a MIL, you bite your tongue. Eat your words, if needed. If the occasion calls for it, follow Emily Dickinson’s advice: “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.”

As far as the MIL game goes, I’ve had two, one mentioned above, as well as a near-saint who was supportive and yes, raised the Best Quilt-Holding Husband in the trade (one among many of his fine talents and qualities). Between handing over my sons to their wives, as well as watching my mother and her MIL, my sisters, my friends and their MIL relationships, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve made all kinds of mistakes, but hope for forgiveness. and try to practice that as often as I can. Whatever your relationship is with your mother-in-law/daughter-in-law, there are a lot of pieces that have to come together to make it work.

I have made quilts for all three of my daughters-in-law (besides the wedding quilts); one carted both quilts off in their divorce; I’m waiting for the new love in my son’s life to let me know what she would like. I don’t know if they like their quilts, but I like thinking about these women: strong ones, smart ones, women who like to laugh, women who are partners to my sons. Women who raise interesting children, and sometimes include me in their lives, for in this new century of no social rules, I am the “away grandma” as my son reminds me and contact can be sporadic. Yes. It’s my turn.

This quilt is for Kim, a daughter-in-law who loves to laugh, doesn’t hold grudges, is a great mother, a fine partner and wife for my son, and doesn’t let him get away with too many shenanigans, while escaping when she can for hers. She always has a game ready for us to play, welcomes us to her home, and is easy to talk to. She loves sunflowers, those being the flowers she carried at her wedding, some twenty years ago. Happy Anniversary, Kim, for making me your mother-in-law, then redeeming me from that awful fate.

And many thanks to my Quilt-Holding Husband, who found us this wonderful mural backdrop, and to Jen, for her fine quilting using an E2E of Baptist Heart Clams.

This updated pattern is found in my PayHip Pattern Shop. If you have already purchased this PatternLite Pattern, thank you. The newest version can be downloaded using the email you received when you bought it.

(PatternLite Patterns: costs less than a pumpkin-spice drink at the local coffee shop.)

21 thoughts on “Sunflowers for a Daughter-in-Law • Quilt Finish

  1. What a beautiful gift for Kim! As for the MIL, Slant!!!! We end up with a bad one, we then try to be a good one, lol. Hoping to end up with great daughters, who our sons marry and creating a wonderful family in the world.

  2. I agree with you, there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground in those relationships 😔. I hope the sunflower quilt is treasured, it’s beautiful 😻

  3. I just love your posts, you always make me think!
    What a wonderful sunflower quilt, it is always so fun to share our passion with those we love!💛🌻

  4. It sounds like the perfect quilt for Kim. Through the centuries we have heard of MIL woes. I wonder why it is that we never hear of complicated relationships with FILs. I was one of those blessed with the best.

  5. My MIL was the best. It took us awhile to dance around our boundaries. As I matured we really did well together. She raised a wonderful son for me as well as 5 other children. Wishing all a great Sunday and beyond!

  6. Ooof the “away grandma” hurts. Growing up, we were the away grandchildren. My cousin had a much closer relationship to my grandma because they lived a couple blocks apart.

    And now my mom is the away grandma. I am sad my kid won’t necessarily be as close as he could be. My in-laws are a half hour away. We can pop over for a meal. We can’t do that with my parents.

    But then I have hope. My parents visited last weekend and my kid was all about Gramgram. My husband quipped, “I’m not sure who got more out of this visit: your mom or (son).”

  7. Beautiful quilt for a special person. As usual, you’ve given me something to think about. I’ve hardly though of myself as a mother-in-law and yet I am.

  8. Another interesting post Elizabeth! I think the m-i-l / d-i-l relationship is probably the hardest one I have ever had to negotiate. And you wise words have held me in good stead too! I am now the ‘away grandma’ and wonder how my relationship with my grandsons will survive. Eli came and cuddled me goodbye five times, in the space of about 15 minutes on Saturday, maybe knowing it will be a while til we see one another again. The quilt is lovely and what a perfect backdrop!

  9. Beautiful quilt! I would take you as a MIL or Mom any day! I often tell my husband, though, that I dread my boys marrying. I already know how hard it will be to be that MIL – I pray for graciousness!!

  10. A lovely essay on mothers-in-law. I was blessed with a good one, and I hope I am at least an adequate one during my turn. I have a wonderful DIL and a wonderful SIL, too. I feel lucky!

  11. What a lovely, honest review of relationships. It’s not easy for me to so honest. It’s been nine months, and it’s still difficult for me to refer to our DIL as “former” because from my perspective, it’s been very painful. No one in our families has been divorced. Anyway, I appreciate everything you said, and love that you made a quilt especially for, and specifically to suit the preferences of your DIL. You’re a fantastic MIL!

  12. Except for a couple years at the beginning, I’ve always been the Away Grandma. But soon I will be living within walking distance of my grandchildren. I hope that they (and my daughter-in-law) will continue to like me as much when I am close at hand as they do now.

  13. I appreciate Melanie’s comment above, about dancing around our boundaries. That is certainly what my DIL and I have done for times in our relationship. It’s sometimes hard having an only child, who is a son. But my DIL and I have worked through ups and downs over the years, and now there are times when she says I’m more a mother to her than her own mother. I take that as a supreme compliment.

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