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A Long Term Project

photoAs I read the articles in Sunday’s newspaper about this weekend’s Upper Cumberland Quilt Festival in Algood, I promised myself that by September 2015 I’ll finish a quilt that that my grandmother began in 1966.

After my mother’s death, in 1991, I found among her sewing stash a box filled with fabric that had cross-stitched floral designs. Cross-stitch is form of counted-thread embroidery and the X-shaped stitches form a picture. I stuck the box in a dresser drawer and there it stayed until six years ago. That’s when I realized there were thirty, fifteen-inch white cotton squares, cross-stitched in burgundy and pink thread, and all the same design. Every square was covered with blue dots, which I recognized as quilting stitch lines, forming curvy designs. And I found a receipt, dated 1966, for $4.94, for the quilt kit and shipping from Lee Wards, a needlework company.

Because I thought my Grandma Gladys was the only person in our family who cross-stitched, I assumed that her only living daughter at the time, my aunt, would want her mother’s work. I was wrong. “Oh, no, that’s yours,” Aunt Doris said. “Your mother and my mother both worked on those quilt squares. Your mother bought the kit and did some of the cross-stitching. It’s yours.”

How could I let Grandma’s and Mother’s work lay in a box? I took the squares to Velma Thompson, my quilt expert friend, and asked for advice. Should I stitch the pieces together on the sewing machine? Piece it with strips of pink between squares? Velma told me that because my grandmother and mother had done such detailed cross stitching that the quilt should be set together by hand and to only use the thirty squares. It would be a big quilt: six blocks long, five across and I should add a six-inch border, with a quilted design.

I hand-stitched the pieces and border and paid a quilt shop professional to machine baste the quilt top, batting, and backing together. Then I again visited Velma. She quizzed me about my hand quilting experience. I’d never quilted. Didn’t know to use tiny quilting needles or special quilting thread. Nor did I know how to rock a needle through three layers.

Velma threaded a needle, showed me how to secure the thread’s end without tying a knot, and sat beside me as I made my first quilting stitches. And she told me that straight-line quilting is much easier than the curvy printed design stamped on my quilt, but that I must take my time and put this quilt down to do other sewing. I should consider it a long term project. Velma also said that my daughter and granddaughter must do some quilting, even a few stitches, so it would be a five-generation quilt.

Six years ago, I began quilting. This quilt has been all over the house. Beside my TV chair and close to my favorite reading spot and in the kitchen. But I’ve rarely quilted. I’ve finished only twelve squares. There are 18 more. Plus quilting the border and stitching the binding. I’ll do it.

This is a public commitment and surely, surely I’ll do it. September 2015, I’ll have Grandma Gladys’s and Mother’s quilt completed. I will. I will. With my daughter’s and granddaughters’ help.

See you this weekend, September 19-20, at Upper Cumberland Quilt Festival. I hope to see all 600 quilts.



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