Stitching Together Memories

One of many quilts by my great grandma Ora

My great grandma Ora (born in the year 1900), of the red clay hills in Mississippi, was an impeccable seamstress and skilled in hand-sewing quilts. As far as I know, she never used a sewing machine or, at least, she never did on her quilts.

With her legacy of quilt making in my family’s past, I decided to explore quilting… After speaking with a quilting friend in Ojai and then magically finding a quilters scrap fabric sale, I decided that it was time. With a foolish spark of creative insight, I began my journey in quilt making. This one would be for my daughter.

So…….it was a meandering journey that took about 1 1/2 years to complete.

I asked my quilting friend how to start and he just said, ‘start stitching pieces of fabric together.’ And, with that practical and yet bold advice, that’s what I did. I steadily stitched together the top layer of the quilt.

Most pieces of fabric were from the quilter’s scrap sale, but some came from some things of my daughter’s and fabric from the times were were in (a piece of fabric we had both contributed stitches to, an indigo dyed fabric from a cloth mask a friend had made my daughter for *pandemic times*, fabric scrap from making dinner napkins, and a piece of an avocado pit dyed dress my daughter used to wear).

I wanted the quilt to have some memories. There weren’t going to be as many as my great grandma Ora’s quilt, which was entirely made from scrap fabrics (old dresses, shirts, etc), but I was able to weave in some used, scrap fabrics of our own.

Then, choosing the batting. Then choosing how I would finish the quilt. Realizing how long it would take to quilt through all three layers (front, batting, and back) in the detailed work my great grandma Ora would do, I decided to hand-tie my quilt so that I could get this thing done in under three years!

To hand-tie the quilt, I put some yarn through all three layers to hold the batting in place. I did this symmetrically across the quilt. I also sewed the edges of the cotton batting inside the quilt to hold the edges of the batting in place.

In the center of the quilt, I put my favorite piece of cotton cloth, an image of Queen Anne’s Lace, honey bees, and birds. To me, it felt like conferring protection to my daughter by infusing the quilt with this image.

I will tell you this. Making a quilt is very time intensive. This craft existed when one or both parents were living and working at home…working the land…subsisting off of the basics. The craft speaks to that, with quilts being made of scrap materials, meticulously hand-sewn for many days and many nights. Winter would have offered plenty of long nights to work on projects like this.

I had to stay up at night to focus and sew. I used quiet time with my daughter at home as an opportunity to sew more pieces of fabric together. It was quite a task to get into the space to sit down and hand-sew the quilt.

But, I did it.

And, the quilt definitely changed me in the process of interacting with it and making it. I have a deep respect for all things handmade. And, I have a deep respect for this craft.

I feel very proud of this patched together, snuggle blanket. And, my daughter has something to keep close to her as long as she wants to.

A piece of her. A piece of me. A piece of our ancestry. All sewn together.

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