Last month I took some friends back home, to Montana. Being from the Pacific Northwest, they were hungry for snow and all the romance of a wintry wonderland. And living in the city, we were all anxious for some quiet down time.
My family members was gracious hosts, giving my city girl friends a taste of the ‘wild west’ (even though we had to go east to get there)…complete with bonfires by the frozen pond, moose roast, and daily icy walks through picture perfect scenery.
But where the real action took place was in Mom’s sewing room. My mom has a bit of an addiction. She’s an amazing quilter and can’t seem to keep from buying fabric. She has bins and bins of it. Enough to open a fabric store of her own. And she saves all the scraps from her projects because she can’t bear to throw them away.
Although I’m creative, I never inherited the sewing gene, and generally steer clear of projects involving a sewing machine. They make me grouchy. And sewing in a straight line? Forget it! It’s a bit much for me.
But, with my friends clustered in the sewing room, and my mom telling me of an easy project I could try using her scraps, I gave in and parked myself in front of her fancy sewing machine. (Actually, for the first day, I parked myself in front of the ironing board, ironing piles and piles of those scraps Mom hasn’t been able to throw away.)
I’d come prepared for the ‘simple’ project my mom suggested by tea dying and cutting some muslin (also scraps of hers that I took at Thanksgiving) into squares. And sat down, as my mother’s oldest child (who has been away from home for more than half her life), and got my first sewing lesson.
Truth be told, it started a little rocky. My skills didn’t match either of our expectations. Sewing always seems like a great idea to me until I’m actually doing it. But, we both pushed through. And we both adjusted our expectations.
Mom would watch what I was doing and sometimes tell me where the scrap I was incorporating came from—her first quilt, quilts for my siblings or me, various projects she created over the last 20 or 30 years. My friend, Susie, dubbed the project a “memory quilt” as mom told us about projects from days gone by. It was true, it was a memory quilt, built on memories belonging to my mom but not to me.
I plugged along on the project and had the quilt top done in 5 days. An amazing feat for me! It puckers in some places and sags in others. Squares don’t always line up. But I finished it without jumping off a cliff in the process (although I sometimes felt like it).
As we spread it out on the floor to see the quilt all sewn together, I realized that this was my memory quilt too. I have the memory of sewing for the first time with my mom, of having my friends come and experience ‘home’ with me, of a wonderful long weekend of creating and eating and laughing. Even though I don’t recognize many of the fabrics I used on top, it’s held together with rich memories of my own.