Sunday, October 18, 2015

Memories in the Words

Mary with her quilt at her lake house in Idaho.
Fall is settling in on us here in New England.  Last Friday was my night for quilting with the once a month quilting girls.  They have been after me to get back to blogging and honestly I've just been busy with life.  But with the chill in the air I'm happy to be inside and ready to get back to writing.

I'm picking up with the "Quilts for The Girls" series I started so very long ago.  In fact all the girls have received their quilts except one.  So here's the story of Mary's quilt.

When we were giggly high school girls we all knew that Mary would be a writer. We had lots of ideas of how we wanted things to be when we grew up.  Writing a book about our little band of friends is something The Girls have always talked about doing.  Mary was picked to be the author because she was so good at writing.  I have always been in awe of anyone who could write ANYTHING.  

Mary wrote poetry in high school while I was barely able to write complete sentences for goodness sake! Which is kind of funny when you consider that I'm the one writing a blog :o)  But that's OK, no one is expecting poetry from me right?!

Mary and I became best friends almost from the first day we met.  I had just moved back to the small town in NH where my parents had grown up and my siblings and I had been born.  I didn't know a soul when I ventured out to the park across the street from our new house that first day.  I don't remember the particulars of that first meeting just that I was delighted to find some kids to play with who lived on the next street over!  We were in elementary school and the park quickly became our hang out.  I met the rest of The Girls through Mary because they all went to a different school than me.

Mary on the beach in Maine
It's difficult to write a synopsis of our long and enduring friendship because there's soooo much to tell - or not!!!  All of which really needs to go into that book we still want to write (or not!)  ;o)   For now I'll just say that without Mary I'd probably have gotten into more a lot more trouble, strayed away from my faith, and never gone to college or dreamed of bigger things in my life.  In short she was an inspiration and a role model to me from a very early age and remains close to my heart today even with all the miles between us.

The Girls - At my sister's wedding 1976
So how do you make a quilt that reflects so many years of shared memories?  Well this one started with words. You see, Mary didn't grow up to be a writer of novels but she did get a degree in communications.  I took that as my jumping off point and searched for fabrics that had words in them.  Finding them was more difficult than I thought it would be which was one of the reasons her quilt is almost the last one.  As I bought each piece I realized that the words were a great representation of all the phases of our lives.  

My original idea for a pattern was the log cabin block but then I remembered that Mary had told me when I was making a quilt for her daughter that log cabin is one pattern she really doesn't like.  But the combination of words and the long, narrow strips or "logs" just seemed like the right fit. Still I just couldn't bring myself to make a quilt with a pattern I knew she didn't like!  Besides, I wanted an upbeat, modern quilt to match Mary's personality.  

I searched the local quilt shops, went to quilt shows, and scoured the internet until I came across "I'm Blushing", by Natalia Bonner for Moda.  It's a really pretty and fun pattern, with key-hole blocks that are simple to construct.  It also had the long strips that would show off the words in the fabrics I'd chosen.  The pattern calls for pre-cut 2 1/2" strips but since I had already purchased all these special fabrics I made my own strips.

I put the strips on my design wall do to some tryouts.  I was trying to get the combination of words and colors right.  I was also paying closer attention to the words to see if they brought back any specific memories.  

The combo below didn't make the cut but I loved the "Fox In Sox" in the Dr. Suess print and the words made with scrabble letters. 

Playing scrabble with Mary's Auntie Anne was so much fun and 
I'm still hooked, playing scrabble on my Kindle nearly every day.

Here's some close ups of blocks that made it into the quilt and some of the memories that inspired them.  

Friends from grade school in a small New England town to college in the big city.

This one made me think of the countless hours we spent talking every day.
The seeds reminded me of one of Mary's jobs working for a seed company!

From Puberty to Menopause!  Need I say more?

Every girl loves to Exercise Accessorize!
Along with the rectangular blocks there are also some square key-hole blocks.  This one has a bike and reminded me of our many rides up to the dam.

Mary's 10 speed bike was named "Pegasus"

The cats, Alice and Guppy, kept a close eye on the progress.  Many mornings I got up to find items removed from the design wall and crumpled on the floor around the foot stool I use to reach the top of the wall.

Apparently Alice didn't like the other red one so she took it off the
design wall and threw it on the floor (next to the stool).

Since I have a full time job I usually sew in the evenings.  When I'm on a roll I can be up late into the night.  Poor Guppy spent many long hours, often past his bedtime, supervising the sewing.

Guppy has a bath while I pieced the blocks.

Alice (on the left) decided to get in on the action too, checking up on me to see if I was ready to stop for the night!  She also made sure my hand stitching on the binding was properly done.

Don't you just LOVE that backing fabric?  It's part of the "Reunion" collection by Moda.

Here are some pictures of the finished quilt in the sunshine.  

The beautiful long-arm quilting was done by Lori Wurtzler.  

Each of the large circle flowers was quilted to look like it had petals.

The leaves were done with a bit of extra batting underneath to make them pop off the quilt.

Mary's label reads "A faithful friend is the medicine of life."

It was 2006 when I began this journey of making Quilts for The Girls.  I finally finished and delivered six quilts by June 2012.  Along the way I spent many enjoyable months planning, collecting just the right fabrics, and choosing just the right pattern for each of my dear friends.  There were also countless hours of reminiscing mixed in with the fun of cutting and sewing and creating these quilts. I have just one left and I can't wait to get started on it.

It was such a joy delivering the a finished quilts to each of my friends.  This delivery took me all the way to Mary's lake house in Idaho!  A fun weekend of catching up (blah, blah, blah) and walking by the Lake just like all those times we walked to school in the mornings, or to the damn on a summer afternoon, or downtown on a Friday night just for something to do. 

Oh yeah, and the deal for me in all of this, besides the quilting fun, was these were meant to be "birthday" quilts so every time one of The Girls has a birthday they're supposed to look at their quilt and forgive me for not sending a card!  I'm a terrible correspondent . . . 

Here's a big hug ( ) to all my Girls, and a very Happy Birthday to each of you!  I can't wait for our next adventure so we can continue to add "chapters" to that book we're going to write - or not! ;0)

The Girls - Celebrating in Boston July 2013