In spite of the fact that she was not an experienced seamstress, the daughter of a good friend of mine decided to design a quilt for her mother’s 75th birthday. She sent out letters to all of her mother’s friends, asking us to make a 9×9 inch square of fabric of our own design that she would then place on the quilt. We were also to write about our square on an 4×6 index card telling our story or memory that inspired how it applied to her mother. The card would be put into a little book that would accompany the quilt.
Because her daughter lived some distance from her mother and was unable to come and present it to her she sent it to us so that we could give it to her at her birthday party. She included this letter to her mother explaining the process she had gone through in creating this gift for her mother.
Becky’s letter to her mother that was opened when she received the quilt.
Dearest Mom, June 3, 2014
Wow! I am writing this note on the morning of your 75th birthday. It is unbelievable to e that the passage of time indicates you are here at this mark. You defy my former expectations of what 75 would be. Now I’m looking forward to it!
To honor you on this day I thought long and hard about a way that could ever express to you my love and gratitude for all you are and have been for me. I knew that if I could somehow harness a mere portion of the love and admiration that exists for you from the large number of lives you have touched, that I would be close to achieving my goal. And so the idea of creating this quilt was inspired. At first, I doubted my ability to pull off such an unfamiliar endeavor. The task seemed bigger than I could grasp at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I imagined that maybe I could pull it off. Once I committed in my mind that I would do this, I knew it would be awesome and that I would receive the guidance and confidence along the way to succeed. And sure enough, that’s what happened!
With Frank’s help in mid-April I sent out an email invitation to all of these women to join me in celebration your birthday. Of course there are more ladies who are would-be contributors but this compilation is pretty impressive, don’t you think?! We didn’t tap into your acupuncture world and for that I am sorry. But, wow, the enthusiastic response I received from all of these women who have known you and loved you for so long gave me confidence that this quilt idea would really work out. It has been fun to connect with many of them individually as they shared their hopes for their squares with me. As they began to arrive in our mailbox, my excitement grew. By May 24th I had received 25 squares and was ready to begin assembling them.
Thankfully, my friend Molly loaned me the essential tools of the straight edge, a pizza-cutter like rolling blade, and a gridded cutting mat. Without them or some of her key descriptions of order/steps for the project, this quilt would have turned out very differently. Once I squared them (squares) all to 9”, I cut lots of 2” strips of blue and began pinning and sewing. It was fun to figure out how best to place them in this final configuration. I knew that two squares possibly four more, were still “on their way” so I let the sashes for the bottom row hang freely in anticipation of their arrival. Thankfully the last one arrived on Friday the 30th, so that I could finally piece the last row of squares together. Deb Z. was so funny: early on she said she’d be lucky to get hers in the mail to arrive to your house in a picture frame by your birthday. Instead, she sent a card, so I was so pleased when her square arrived last week so that there would be 30 total – perfect.
On Saturday May 27th I got all of the top done except the last 5 squares on the bottom row, then on May 31, Saturday, I was able to assemble it all: I had cut and prepped the back, the 4” borders were ready to be sewn on, and I had cut and sewn together a long strip of 2” purple for the binding. So just four days ago I swept the kitchen floor, put the purple back down, placed the batting on top, and then the top of the squares/border. I cut it to leave two extra inches on all of the sides to allow for shrinkage, I pinned with safety pins all of the layers and began to sew the “quilting” vertical and horizontal stripes along all of the sashing.
Amazingly, throughout this project the sewing machine worked very well. A few times I needed to adjust it and there are some lines of stitches on the back where the tension (maybe) wasn’t right. But, oh, I am so happy it worked out so well, for so much sewing!
So by Saturday p.m., I had cut it to size and pinned on the binding, sewing the front of the binding on and was ready for hand stitching the backside. On Sunday as we drove to the Chattooga River, I stitched the binding but all I knew was the whipstitch. I knew there was a way to sew a hidden stitch but I’d never learned it. Finally, after trial and error, it came to me. I was so pleased. Throughout this process I have channeled your sewing prowess. When I’ve gotten stuck, I’ve stopped and imagined you steadily sewing clothing, costumes, jammies, doll clothes, projects of all kinds over the years. I knew I could do it for you! I even looked on U-tube to see how to make the cool, mitered corners of the binding and it worked!
Mom, I have felt so connected to you and all of your wonderful friends as I’ve worked on this quilt. I’ve thought about the steps in bed at night. I’ve grinned in anticipation of you receiving this blanket of love. I’ve felt such pride as I passed each step of the way and I saw that my hopes for creating this piece of love for you would be realized. All along I’ve been able to see that it would come together and be an amazing tribute to you. Your life’s journey has had such significant and meaningful impact on so many people. As I assembled the book of cards for you, I could feel the power of your friendship, your roles as mentor, leader, and teacher, and your place as healer, listener, and supporter in the lives of these dear ones. And there are so many other others who love you! Male, too, of course. We are all blessed to have your elegance, wisdom, and pureness of being yourself in our lives.
I feel so privileged to be the one to create for you this beautiful expression of color, symbol, and meaning that comes from the hearts of many. A quilt is the perfect place for all of us to share our creativity, love, and honor of you as you celebrate 75 wonderful years of life. Of course I would love to be with you as you allow yourself to be wrapped in its loveliness but I am always with you. I look forward to being with you in person to share more stories about its creation. Until then, know you are so loved by your daughter and all of these incredible women around the country.
Happy 75th Birthday, Mom!!
I love you,