Quilt-making is intensive, often community-building, and a labor of love. Quilts can be complicated like this quilt made by the moms at Nishimachi International School in Japan or simple. Each one is made to provide a hug and warmth. Joan Stevenson, a fellow Wednesday Writer, contributed this quilt-making story today. I hope you enjoy her tale.
Piecing It Together
by Joan Stevenson
by Joan Stevenson
More than fifty years ago, I accepted a month-long position in a dental office with the intent that the paycheck I received would be enough to purchase the sewing machine in the window at the mall that I had my eye on. I cashed the check right after work and went directly to the mall, cash in hand. The store had closed early and there was a metal gate across the opening. Not to be deterred, I rattled the bars like a prisoner until I had the manager's attention. My tears moved him to re-open the store and sell me the Singer sewing machine in the window.
It was a workhorse, completing little girls' outfits and mine, hems, curtains, coats, Christmas gifts, and more than a few outfits for weddings. When I went back to work full time, the machine sat idle for many years. Recently, I had a new project in mind and took the machine in for a tune-up.
At the repair shop, I was told that Singer doesn't make replacement parts for this model anymore. I walked out the door with a new sewing machine. I brought it home, delighted that it was very light to carry. I practiced threading and filling the bobbin. I quickly learned that thread should have a "used-by-date" because my decades-old thread shredded. I purchased all new thread and I was ready to begin my new project.
My plan involved being a participant in our church quilt project. Each year I have looked forward to "Quilt Sunday" at Our Savior's Lutheran Church. The sanctuary overflows with a riot of color. Every pew, altar, lectern, organ, and piano is covered with a quilt -- 162 of them. I wanted to be a part of the creation. The quilts begin with the scraps of fabric that are contributed from the tailings of a Halloween costume, the end of a Christmas project, a discontinued dress or simply cloth that caught someone's eye but never went on to a life of its own. Scraps. Nothing but scraps.
The process of making the quilt is divided into steps. The first team cuts the fabric into twelve-inch squares. That task, cutting the squares, is critical. The cuts must be accurate in order for the corners to come together. Let's see,, that is 7,776 squares cut by hand.
The next team lays out the design for each row. The rows are numbered, pinned together and placed in bags. As one of the sewers, I was the next step in the process. I picked up my first bag from the cupboard at church with the contents to make two quilt covers. I opened my bag and found red, pink and blue fabrics pinned together. My new machine hummed along with Row 1. I was careful to make the seams the prescribed 3/8 inch. The afternoon flew by and I beamed when I realized I had completed six rows. Now I had the challenge of sewing the long rows together and to make sure that my corners came together cleanly.
With both of my covers finished, I returned them to the bag they came in and placed the bag back in the church cupboard ready for the next set of hands to attach the batting and backing to the quilt. Now the final touch, the ties in each corner of each square. Here a few seasoned men added their efforts to the team. The quilt, once tied, is then ready for show time: Quilt Sunday.
As I came into the church, I felt an air of closeness in the room and a sense of purpose. Each quilt has a small white envelope pinned on it to fund the cost of mailing. For a donation of $2.25, each quilt is sent to Lutheran Social Services.We shared a tender moment when we placed our hands on the quilts and prayed them on their way.
The quilts are distributed to first responders and to people in need. They provide a hug in times of crisis and shield someone against the cold and rain. Their versatility makes these quilts useful as simple tents, bedding, floor coverings, or as a wrap to hold a baby on a mother's back. In addition, each graduating senior in our church family receives a quilt with their name embroidered on it.
One more volunteer carts the rolled, packed quilts to the post office. I wondered who would receive them and where they would go -- Africa or Oakland? I can't quite let go of the kinship I felt for my quilt covers. Will a baby be cuddled in the soft pink one? Might the red one be the ground cover for a woman selling her wares at market? Or perhaps one of them will cover an old woman at a shelter. I hope they will know that my stitches come with love and hope.