I love the saying “Bloom where you are planted”! Have you heard it?
Like many military wives, I have been planted in many different locations both in the US and abroad. It was during our last military assignment that we found my husband’s inoperable brain tumor. After he was medically retired, we settled back in Virginia.
I am first and foremost an artist. It is in my DNA to be creative. Over the years I have dabbled in pottery, stained glass, rug hooking, crewel, embroidery, cross stitch, oil painting and water colors, sketching and pen and ink drawing, and quilling, but quilting has been a constant in my life since my early 20’s.
My grandmother graduated college during the Great Depression with a major in home economics and I’m told I get my creativity from her. While she never quilted, she did teach me to sew by hand. I “met” my first quilt while a docent at Sully Plantation. I was delighted when my parents purchased the small doll bed “Cathedral Window” quilt for me. In high school I learned to use a sewing machine and was thrilled to receive my first sewing machine as a high school graduation gift. That basic Kenmore lasted over 30 years, but it sewed more drapes and home furnishings than quilts. I, for the most part, taught myself to quilt. I was a purist and for years did most of my piecing and all my quilting by hand.
As military wives we often focus on caring for our family and home in the absence of our husbands and it is easy to neglect ourselves. Over the years I taught quite a few Officer Wives Club quilting classes offering others the opportunity for personal growth and to do something “for themselves”.
When stationed in Germany it was challenging to find cotton fabrics to quilt. Their fabrics have a different “hand” than our quilting cottons and the colors were different, as well.
When we returned to El Paso, my 2 boys got chicken pox, of course not at the same time, but rather, successively. After those first two weeks stuck at home nursing with my eldest through this affliction, my youngest presented those first few pox and I thought I would go crazy to be stuck in the house for two more weeks. That was my inspiration to begin this Log Cabin quilt.
I cut out the pieces on a Sunday, pieced the blocks on Monday, put the top together on Tuesday, put the quilt backing, batting, and top on my full frame in my living room on Wednesday, and tied it on Thursday and Friday, bound it on Saturday and slept under it on Sunday. I was definitely “driven”! My neighbor awed at how I drove that machine, pushing the pedal to the floor like I drove my Mercedes on the autobahn in Germany.
When my husband was at Walter Reed for an extended stay as a patient, it was my hand quilting that kept me sane sitting in his room ever waiting for doctors and treatments.
When we returned to Ft. Bliss, our local soldiers were headed into the 1st Persian Gulf War. My neighbor desperately needed a distraction and she asked me to teach her to quilt. This project was a wonderful preoccupation for us both in the midst of the turmoil of the time. My neighbor made these blocks and I put them together and quilted it. Each hand pieced block holds special symbolism:
- January – Patience Corner – as the war in Iraq began (‘Yellow’ bow in center for remembrance)
- February – Right Hand of Friendship… a foundation for this quilt
- March – Virginia Star – Birth month to my VA born husband
- April – Card Trick – for my neighbor’s April birthday
- May – Stamp Basket
- June – Bridal Bouquet – My neighbor’s wedding anniversary month (she carried a bouquet of daiseys) and the center represents my Flag Day birthday
- July – Patriotic Bear’s Paw – My neighbor had made beautiful stuffed bears
- August – Jacob’s Ladder – just because
- September – Single Wedding Ring – for our anniversary month with pieced Evergreen center for “our song”
- October – Ohio Star – Birth month of my neighbor’s Ohio born husband
- November – Original design representing our duplex – quilting shows a cloud over my neighbor’s half of the duplex because she had moved by the time this quilt was quilted… but the smoke coming out of my chimney shows I still lived there.
- December – Joy Bells – for Christmas
- The “yellow ribbon” border with bow ties it all together with remembrance.
For my grandparent’s 60th anniversary I made a Family Tree quilt to commemorate the occasion. I asked all family members to send me a tracing of their hands. The result was treasured by my grandparents until their passing.
When my husband medically retired and we settled in Cross Junction, VA, I purchased a small wall inexpensive wall hanging quilt from LL Bean to hang outside on the “breezeway” between our garage and our kitchen. It added a splash of color that brightened our comings and goings during that bleak winter. When I took that quilt down in the spring, the wall looked naked. I began to machine piece and hand quilt tops to seasonally hang there, including the Valentines Quilt given to my husband for his last Valentine’s Day.
While the snow fell week after week that winter, 3 of my neighbors asked me to teach them to quilt. We each made 4 blocks representing our homes, then swapped, so we each have a block from one another.
After I remarried, I made another Valentine’s Day quilt for my 2nd husband.
Then, on the occasion of his first Father’s Day, I made this quilt “Father’s Ties”, with shirts from both my husbands and my boys who, I hoped, would one day also become fathers.
He also received a fun summer-y folk quilt to hang in his office to remind him of home.
I also made small quilts to change out seasonally. Here are a few.
This is a quilt I made to give life to 2 antique squares I found at an antique store. I found similarly colored fabric and duplicated the blocks to make this quilt.
In 2008 my old Kenmore sewing machine died. I was about to give up on my sewing and quilting, but my husband insisted on buying me a new machine to continue my passion for quilting. These new fangled machines are like buying a new car, both in features and cost. I am very grateful to have been truly blessed twice in marriage. He knew how much it means to me to be able to express my creativity, especially when life presents challenges and trials.
When I realized the cost, I decided I would have to get my money’s worth out of this machine and (except for a few quilts that remain “in progress” that are hand pieced and quilted) I’ve primarily machine pieced and quilted ever since.
My first quilt on this new machine allowed me to try out its “hand-quilting” stitch. It is nice, but not authentic enough for me.
With my “nest” emptied, I found my “quilting-self” blooming with the inspiration of other local quilters. My postmistress had discovered I was a quilter and persistently insisted I join her evening group. With their encouragement, I completed my first challenge quilt and entered it in the regional quilt show.
That challenge quilt won a Viewer’s Choice” award and I was asked to get involved with the quilt show committee for our next biennial show. In designing the quilt show website I discovered there were other local quilt groups and I joined 3 of them. When life is “normal” I can connect regularly with quilting friends.
A new friend in Texas commented that she didn’t know I quilted. She wanted to see some of them. This led me to gather photos of my quilts over the years and I posted them in a gallery on my Facebook page. In doing this, I realized I had made about 40 quilts over the years – through 2009. In 2010, I completed 32 quilts… and yet half the year was taken up with caring for my father diagnosed with cancer. I was amazed and attributed this accomplishment to three things. First, in doing quilts on machine the process is indeed faster than when doing all the piecing and quilting by hand. I had also begun to have long-arm quilters do the stitching on my larger quilt tops. But most significant, I think, is that I began to take at least 30 minutes each day to “create”. I go down each morning to walk on my treadmill for 30 minutes and also stitch for at least 30 minutes most every day. Obviously, I missed quilting for months on end last year, while caring for my dad, yet I was still able to finish 32 quilts. Much can be accomplished, even with little bits of time, if consistent in effort.
My quilted pieces run the gamut from traditional to modern, functional to fashionable. Whether for a bed, lap, table, or wall, my quilts add accent to a home and are thoughtfully, skillfully created to provide beauty, warmth, and comfort for the eye, heart, and soul.
In closing, I have three summary points:
- May we bloom where we are planted, where we live, where we work, and where ever we are in life.
- May we find our passion, and pursue it with all our being. It is never too late to learn something new.
- Lastly, it isn’t all about the destination. Just jump in and enjoy the journey. Along the way we impact the lives of others and create a legacy.