Quilt With Us

I want to introduce you to a very special, very interesting lady, named Carmen. She lives in Spain, and is a regular internet customer here at Stitchin’ Heaven. We always look forward to hearing from Carmen whether it is via phone or e-mail. She is a delightful person, she always has a kind word and an uplifting spirit. As I read her story, I was almost brought to tears to find that someone so far away, can be so close, and so dear to us simply through the art of quilting. I hope you enjoy her story as much as I did. Enjoy …
Dear Deb,
I really can’t tell what made me feel so attracted to patchwork, but it was love at first sight. In my country, Spain, there is no similar tradition and I was not exposed to patchwork until I was a young adult. I was never lucky enough to sleep under a quilt made by my grandmother, to fall asleep hearing my mother at the sewing machine or to be allowed to play with fabric leftovers … The first quilts I saw were in a book, and I bought it right away. I had to have that treasury of colors and shapes. There were just a few pictures in that book, and no instructions whatsoever. It sat in my library, fueling my dreams of sometime being able to accomplish something similar, for years. I never tired of looking at those pictures and wondering how something so beautiful could be put together. It was years before I could put my hands on a quilt and feel its soft cotton fabrics and batting and see the tiny stitches someone had used to quilt it.
Then one summer, a friend of mine asked me to help her … her parents had an American student staying in their house and she needed some help with the language. This girl was in college, about the same age my friend and I were, and when I asked if she knew anything related with patchwork, it worked out she was one of these lucky girls with sisters, mother, grandmother and aunts all quilters! So, we spent the summer making templates and tracing and cutting and sewing … and I haven’t stopped since!
I have a huge library of patchwork books now … and luckily enough they’re full of instructions, so I’ve slowly taught myself new techniques. We still fall far behind in terms of fabrics and notions, but more material is reaching us all the time. I can’t cease to wonder at all the brilliant sewing methods and all the new fabrics, notions and quilts constantly being produced. There is so much more to learn, and so many quilts I want to make! My husband says I will need four or five more lives to complete them all … he just doesn’t calculate how many more quilts I will feel the urge to make if I live more lives!
Apart from the more material aspects of patchwork, such as collecting a stash or producing beautiful quilts, I now know there is another part I love about all this … and its the wonderful fraternity and generosity among quilters. Of course, my quilts are far from perfect, but every time I’ve shown one, comments have always been sooooo kind. A patchwork colleague will always praise your work. There will always be something nice she can point out about your quilt, and if you show a corner that doesn’t match perfectly or a fabric choice that didn’t work out to be as great as you thought it would, she will always tell you it’s all right. Maybe feeling so easily contented sounds stupid, but in such a competitive and aggressive world as we find ourselves in sometimes … I just love this. Who needs a psychiatrist when you can spend time cutting and sewing and then show the result to a friend and receive the nicest comments on earth?? Ladies, we could spend ten times more on patchwork supplies, and still be saving money compared to visiting a doctor. My husband confesses he feels envy of this comradeship. He also has a hobby … he makes model airplanes, ships and tanks … He surfs the web and shows pictures of his beautiful works in discussion forums and … he receives so many trivial criticisms … it must be testosterone! Comments like “That shade of green you painted your tank with wasn’t used until Spring of 1944 and the battle you are recreating took place in the winter of 1943”, and I can assure you it’s the most beautiful model you’ve ever seen! I pat him on the back and tell him its all right and that his models are beautiful and that I love him … and I smile to myself and know how lucky I am to have such nice friends from patchwork.
So, my deepest gratitude and admiration go out for all of you. You are not only warming our naps with your extraordinary quilts … you also warm our hearts with your unpayable kindness. Thank you for making this world more colorful and warm.
Yours, Carmen

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Replies to This Discussion

I enjoyed reading your essay, Carmen. When I make a mistake in my design, fabric choice, or piecing, I think of the tradition among crafters saying that only God makes perfect things. Some cultures go farther and say that making perfect things will anger "the gods". There are mistakes I fix; ripping is part of sewing. Others I say, "I'm going to leave that in because only God makes perfect things." Our imperfections make us human, and the imperfections in our work are sometimes what makes it beautiful.
You're right, the criticisms of your husband's work come from testosterone. If you show a quilter the "wrong shade of green", she'll tell you it really works with that red or that it's "growing on her"!
I'm glad you discovered quilting, Carmen. It's a tradition that has bound women together in friendship for a long time. Edna

I am honored to be able to communicate with you Carmen, your a great person and a great quilter. Your English has a very eloquent and pleasing presentation. I am very happy to be able to share my quilting experience with you.

Good Day Edna,

I fully agree with you on your definition of perfect, and that as quilters, we are a special breed of people!

Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful story. I am so grateful that you are a part of our Dear Jane group. Quilters are the nicest people! I have been in other types of groups, with painters, musicians, etc. and none can compare to the quilters. The love, the sharing, the helping, everything is better with quilters.
Reading your essay brought tears to my eyes. It is so eloquently written. You are truly gifted. I admire someone who can make me view the world from their point of view. Thank you, Carmen. I value your friendship.
I didn't start out with a love of quilting. I am drawn to other fiber arts. My mother was the quilter. She started when cardboard templates were cut out & scissors were all she had to cut around the shapes. Her choices of material was dictated by bags of scraps other people donated & could be just about anything. Color choices were more like 30's or 40's choices, not necessarily where I would choose to go.

Many of her quilts were made as wedding, graduation and baby gifts. Every member of the family has at least one. Her famous baby quilt was a large clown. He always had a ruffled collar, a split shoe, with toe sticking out and strange balloons twisting in the sky.

During this time, I had made a quilt or two. Mostly to get my colors in them. Several quilts Mom handquilted for me. The last one she did was very hard for her. She couldn't remember how her frame went together, or how much quilting she needed to do. That was when I realized that the Alzheimers had advanced and was interfering with her cognition.

I decided to help Mom quilt. Maybe with my help she would be able to keep up with something that she loved and so defined her. We finished a wedding quilt for her oldest granddaughter. There were several other projects we did as well. Eventually, she came and told me that she didn't want to do it anymore, it was too frustrating because of how much she couldn't remember. I have one quilt still, a log cabin variation, that tracks her decline. Early blocks are neat and sized the same. Gradually they got crazy and odd and eventually she went over all the blocks, sewing a zig zag stitch so the material wouldn't come apart.

My love of quilting started as I helped Mom during this four or five year period. I swore I'd never do applique, for fear it would ruin my hands for the fine embroidery I love so much. My first applique blocks turned that idea upside down. I have several projects going that use applique, including Hawaiian applique pillows. Those are quite a challenge, as my cutting doesn't seem to get the symetrical effect needed. I have avoided hand quilting - tried it, don't like it. I am working on machine quilting, but that limits the size quilt I can safely work through my machine.

My stash is taking over my studio & now part of the garage. My husband isn't too happy about that - nor am I . My stash is much too visible to him there. To pare it down, I've been making charity quilts for the cancer center in nearby Buffalo, NY. I don't think I sew fast enough to put more than a dent in it.

My mother's quilts, even before her disease, were far from perfect. She was never able to use modern tools, although she admired how fast I was able to cut things. She habitually used sheets for her backings, a no-no for modern quilters. Her bindings were the sheet overhang, pulled to the front and machine stitched down. But each quilt she made was appreciated by those she gave it to. They are well used and well loved.

Thanks for listening - Joan
Your story is beautiful. What precious treasures and beautiful memories you have. Thank you for sharing it with us.


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