Lately I’ve been bumping into Genea-Bloggers who are also quilters, such as Dear Myrt and The Chart Chick, and quilting bloggers who are also family historians, like Lillian’s Cupboard. It’s not an unlikely pairing, as anyone who has inherited a family quilt would know. Quilting is like anything else, in that the craft itself can connect us with the past.
My dad loves tinkering with cars, polishing the chrome until it gleams like a mirror. I remember my grandfather’s tidy garage and pristine auto and know that every time he pulls out a polishing cloth, my dad is reenacting a ritual he observed in his own father’s garage. When we bake a cake from a heirloom recipe, sew a doll’s dress, or harvest the first tomato of the season we honor and remember those who taught us.
I didn’t have the privilege to learn quilting from my grandmother, but in reading her letters, I have found several references to sewing. Evidently, like many women in the early 20th century, Arline was proficient at creating her own sylish wardrobe. She used a Singer machine that she occasionally mentions, although I don’t know if it was a treadle or electric model. And from what I have gathered about her busy life, I doubt that she had time or interest to make heirloom quilts. If she did make quilts, it was probably out of necessity, something so common it didn’t even garner a mention in her letters.
I started quilting in 2000 after a friend dragged me along while she purchased a new sewing machine. I took a class to learn about my new Bernina (of course, I bought one too!), and got to work on my first quilt. It was a crib size Flying Geese pattern made from an Eleanor Burns pattern. My boys are over 6’4″ tall and I didn’t have grandchildren, but it seemed like a manageable project.
Since then, I have made dozens more quilts from easy to difficult, from doll-size to queen-size. I don’t think I will ever be a “Master” Quilter, but I do enjoy making something enduring and comforting. That crib-size Flying Geese brightens my eldest son’s sofa in his New York City apartment, and a western-theme flannel quilt warms my younger son and his new bride in Southern California.
Next week, I’ll be at the Road to California Quilt Show in Ontario, California, viewing quilts, meeting designers, and generally getting inspired to make a new family heirloom. Maybe I’ll even bump into a quilting Genea-Quilter; leave a comment if you will be there!