Silver and Gold Friendship Quilt

SilverGold_draped

Silver and Gold
The Toni Jones Quilt
finished December 2013

Toni Jones moved into the house up the cul-de-sac from mine, a welcome addition to our neighborhood.  With her six children to my four, our houses were jumping when we got together, and we did that a lot.  Her mother lived with them, and the three of us women got along famously. One late summer day,  Toni gave me a jar of her homemade pickles, made from her mother’s recipe and which used grape leaves as the secret ingredient.  As a pickle lover, I thought I was in heaven and still have her recipe in my file, although I have never made them (grape leaves are not easy to come by).

We because close friends very quickly, as we tried to sort out the three main things that concern young mothers: will our children grow up to be good citizens?  how do we manage our marriages? and how can I lose this weight?  The first is a universal, the second was harder for me, and the third was harder for her.  Too soon, my husband took another job and moved us to California, where the marriage finally cracked apart, and we divorced.  Toni moved to a town further south of our Texas meeting place, got a job driving a bus to help out with finances and our letters and phone calls still resonated with the three questions, occasionally adding in a few more thorny conundrums, such as: will I ever marry again (mine), will we ever feel happy inside (both of ours), and can I clone myself to get everything done?

Then I fell in love, married and moved to Southern California.  She and her husband, mother and family moved back to the Midwest from where they’d first moved.  That fall I received a lovely letter from Toni.  She was noticeably slimmer, posed in a family portrait with her husband and children surrounding her like bright satellites.  She was all heart, that girl.  Her letter glowed with satisfaction: she loved the Midwest, happy to be “home” again, and everyone was doing well.  And yes, she’d canned some pickles and wished she could share.

I sent off my Christmas card in 2004, adding a scrawled a note and busied myself with preparations.  Shortly after the holiday, instead of her usual Christmas card, I received a letter from her husband.  He wrote that just before Christmas, Toni and her mother had been killed in a head-on collision on an icy road.  By the time the accident was discovered, they were both gone.  The news was stark, severe, sucking the breath right out of me.

Silvergold_ToniJonesBlock

Toni was the first woman close to me that had left too soon, and I resolved to capture all my friends, those who were close relatives, women who had mentored me.  I decided to make a quilt with everyone’s signature, my own memorial to Toni and to my friendships.

SilverGold_full

So many lived far away, so I ironed fabric to freezer paper, enclosed a letter giving instructions to sign the square in pencil, and included a self-addressed stamped envelope so I’d get them back.  Most did.  Other times, I carted my squares with me to family reunions, to church, to a therapist’s office, to quilt group, as I had made a list of women I needed and began checking off the names as  the squares grew.  Not all of my close friends are included, as I decided to limit it to a time frame, otherwise I’d never be done.

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I gathered up all my granddaughters’ names this fall, and made them squares.

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My mother, Barbara, and my daughter, named for my mother, are kitty-corner from each other.

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I took the quilt to my quilter a week before Christmas and she turned it around quickly, so I could show my granddaughters when they came to visit.  Emilee, the oldest daughter of my son, beamed brightly when I showed her the square with her name on it.  Brooke, the four-year-old, wanted to sign another one, but I’ve left two blank in case my last son has daughters.

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I had purchased the backing when I bought all the fabrics for the quilt, so it came together quickly.  I felt some urgency to finish it off, as this Christmas we celebrated my 60th birthday (it’s really not until January, but all the children were in town, so we did it early).  I hesitate to say the number, because I remember being thirty and thinking that sixty was the kind of number where people were shipped off to Old Folks’ Homes, fitted with canes, walkers and rocking chairs and consigned to a life of reminiscence.  But I am young in my mind (although sometimes the body doesn’t get the memo) and want to celebrate what I’ve learned and the people who have touched my life, providing instruction, guidance and a listening ear at critical junctures in my life.

So, with this quilt, I remember Toni.

With this quilt, I celebrate a lifetime of women.

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This is Quilt #126 on my 200 Quilts List.

FinishALong Button

It is also a quilt from the 2013 FAL Quarter 4, hosted by Leanne, of She Can Quilt.

‘Twas the Week Before Christmas

Well.  Almost the last week before Christmas (ten days to go, says the Advent Calendar on our fridge).

Dec MCM Bee Blocks

Given that I’ve been >>sick<< with ick and asthma and blah for too long, and that I have TONS of stuff to do, I leapt into action and made my bee blocks for December for Mary at Molly Flanders.  I mean, that is the prudent thing to do, right?

Dec MCM Bee Blocks_2

It was actually quite restorative working with old-fashioned prints and calming neutrals.  A whole lot more fun than trying to get the last of the Christmas decorations up (but I did finish them today, thank you very much).  I enjoyed the process.  One thing that our bee does, which I like, is that we make each other a signature block with our name, our blog name and our location and send it along with the blocks.  I have a row of signature blocks on the back of my Santa quilt (which has been idling all these past couple of weeks on my sewing room floor while I have graded and rested) which makes me smile when I see them.

Blocks all done

And maybe it’s because I have signatures on my brain.  Here are all the blocks for my signature quilt put up on my pin wall. They lack the sashing and the borders, but what fun to see a flower garden of my friends!

Mistake on block

Whoops.  I had to fix one of them.  Mind you, that block has been like that for nearly eight years, and I’m just now noticing it. What’s fun about working with signature blocks is that you think about the person who’s name you are holding.  Kendy would have a fit if her block were wrong, as she was always perfectly put together and perfectly modulated in all comportment.  (Look it up–I kid you not.)

Tracing Toni's NameI had one more signature that I had to get, and I couldn’t just contact her and get it lickety-split (more on Toni in a later post).  So I found her Christmas card from a few years back, enlarged her signature and traced it onto a prepared fabric square (a square of fabric that had freezer paper ironed to the back of it).

Toni's Block

Toni’s square, all bordered in greens.  She would be pleased.

Often at Christmas, all the relatives gather, or we go to their houses.  If you want to start a signature quilt, have a stack of squares ready for them to sign.  Choose a block with a wide open space for writing, and a simple frame for that signature.  Then cut the center square about an inch larger than you’ll need it, back it with freezer paper.  I drew the 4″ center square directly onto the freezer paper, so that it would show through and give people an idea of their boundaries.

I used a Micron .05 pen for people to sign their names.  Those who I couldn’t get (who lived too far away), I sent the block to them and had them write their name lightly, but legibly with pencil, and then I traced it in the Micron pen when it came back to me (I included a SASE so the blocks would come back).  I only had one that never returned to me, but then that woman get could get her dander up quickly, and she carried a grudge longer than anyone I’ve ever seen.  She was still wonderful to me, though, and I loved her.  I’m sorry she didn’t return the square.

Yes, all this quilt is women.  Relatives, friends, mentors, and the latest batch of my granddaughters.  At some point, I realized I had to cut off the additions, otherwise it would never be done.  So, with the exception of my granddaughters, I stopped adding, even though there are still people who are important to me without their names on my quilt blocks.  I love looking at it.  I drop it at the quilter tomorrow, and since my granddaughters are coming for Christmas, she has promised to have it done by the 23rd.  (I’ve already made the binding!)

Why did I start this?  Because of Toni.  I’ll tell you more about Toni, and why she was the inspiration for this quilt in another post–probably after Christmas, after all the company’s gone home!

A Quiet Week

AMH tote bag

AMH tote bag pocket

After the big TaDa! moment of getting Santa and his blocks and his neighborhood all done, it was a quiet week.  No bee blocks.  No quilting.  No sewing, unless you count the samples that I put together to teach my Pleated Tote Bag class on Tuesday night.  Tonight, I finished the bag that I’d used as a teaching sample (above), putting the pieces together, arriving at completion.

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And because I have a quiet week, and I’ve had a chance to reflect on recent events, and because we are approaching the Thanksgiving holiday, it’s time to count my blessings, quilt-wise.  In the photo above, Cindy, of Live A Colorful Life is seated at my dining room table, sewing on my little featherweight.  This was the second year she has come down for our Good Heart Quilters Potluck Event, and I’m so glad she did.  One of the blessing of modern quilting is the internet, the connections we make through Instagram, through blogs and their comments, through emails, and through bees (Cindy organized the Mid-Century Modern Bee, of which I’m a part).

Pho and Flatbread

When she arrived, on Halloween Night, we turned out the lights on the porch and went out for Pho and flatbread from a new restaurant in town.  She was pretty adventurous, even so far as to have the Korean-style flatbread, with kimchi on top.  Later, we came back home and talked and sewed (my husband was out of town, so we had the run of the place).  Cindy’s gift of collecting people and connecting people has greatly blessed my life.

TAble setting

After sewing all day Friday, we set up the tables in my dining room, and hosted the Good Heart Quilters, or about half of them.  It seems it was a very busy weekend, and we were missing a good number of these fine quilters.

Cooked Stuffed Pumpkin

Stuffed Pumpkin_open

This was what I made for my contribution to dinner: stuffed pumpkin (recipe found *here*).

Quilt Night_1a

from l: Carol, Laurel, Janette, Leisa and Tracy

Quilt Night_2a

from l: Simone, Caitlin, Cindy and Lisa

Quilt Night_Laurel

We always start (and usually finish) with Show and Tell.  This is Laurel’s finish–a quilt for her sister.  It’s very tall, so the angle isn’t the best, but as always, Laurel combines piecing with appliqué to create something we all want to sneak off with, into our cars.

Quilt Night_Lisa

Lisa got her borders sewn on tonight–a Hallelujah! moment because she’s been busy getting ready for her daughter’s wedding in about three weeks, and she has sewn her own dress and most of Bridget’s trousseau, amidst working all day.  We were thrilled for her.

Quilt Night_Simone

Simone started coming this spring for the first time, and has her first finish: an apple core quilt done in modern fabrics.  It’s fabulous.

Quilt Night_Simone2

But she didn’t stop there–she used the scraps to create a table runner.  A clever quilter, wouldn’t you say?  Last year, we ate and then just chatted, but this year we ate and then got to work and everyone made progress on their projects.  Next quilt night is at Simone’s, on Saturday, December 7th, a shift from our usual Fridays (the church Christmas supper snagged that Friday!).  In counting my blessings, this quilt group is one of my big quilty blessings.  Sometimes we’ve been only a few ladies gathered at a house for munchies and sewing, sometimes there’s been a lot of us, but after meeting for sixteen years, roughly 8-10 times a year, we’ve all become close friends, and are always ready to welcome in a new quilter (like Simone and Caitlin).

Hello Kitty on Ceiling

I don’t know if you can see this, but when I went to Arizona to spend time with my daughter and her family while her husband was in Tonga doing free dental work, I got to sleep in her daughter Keagan’s room.  I turned out the light, pulled up the covers and was greeted by a giant pink Hello Kitty and the time, all broadcast to the ceiling.  It made me smile, and count my blessings of having grandchildren who like to know what time it is.  Even if it is in the middle of the night.

Santa Backing

While I was there, Barbara took me to a giant fabric/quilt shop store where they had tons and tons of great quilt fabrics: 35th Avenue Sew and Vac, in Phoenix Arizona, where I found a piece of Ann Kelle’s Christmas trees for no good reason.  Ah, but the very good reason became apparent to me after I finished off the Santa top.  This will be the perfect backing (and I got it on sale!).

Friendship Quilt

And lastly, about fifteen years ago I started this Friendship Quilt. At that time I wanted to remember lots of women in my life who had been my mentors, my friends, my sisters and sisters-in-law, my daughter and daughters-in-law.  Some of these women: two of my aunts, and my mother-in-law have passed away already.  It’s time to get it done.  I have put it on my Finish-A-Long list nearly every month, but hadn’t done much about it.  Recently I laid out the squares in what I thought I remembered as my original design.  Holes in the pattern were apparent.  I realized that I had just enough missing blocks that I could gather my granddaughters’ signatures, as well as the my most recent daughter-in-law.  It’s tempting to keep it going, to add those friends who are close to me now, but I decided some time ago that with the exception of adding those related to me, I would leave it as it was: a snapshot in time.  But because I am counting my quilty blessing on this post, from new friends and far-flung internet friends and old friends both near and far, and all those related to me, I must end by counting these sweet blessings in my life:

Signatures

These were the signatures I collected last week, from the three-year-old Dani to the eldest granddaughter Keagan, and all the others in between.

I am beyond blessed to know these little women.  They make my heart sing.

Cool quilt square from IG

Happy Thanksgiving week, every one.  Don’t let the cooking interfere too much with the sewing (although, judging from what I see on Instagram (photo above), things are proceeding apace! (Nice quilt block, Leanne!)

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