Life Quilt: A Voice for the Future

One generation praises your deeds to the next and proclaims your mighty works. Psalm 145:4. 

They were projects that took me years to complete. And in the end, I wasn’t even the one who completed them. In fact, I wasn’t even the one who started them.

Two old quilts. The first one came from my son-in-law’s grandmother. My daughter wanted her little girl to have a quilt her great-grandmother made and her grandmother (me) restored. I picked another one up in an antique store. Its crafter remains unknown.

So there was one quilt for each granddaughter.

Restoration was my task. To take two old things–no longer pretty–and only one with family significance–and infuse them with beauty, function, and meaning. I began to gather scraps for the girls to carry through their lives and pass along later.

Everywhere I went I hunted for a fabric store–a challenge I relished!
I found one fabric with daisies, my sister-in-law’s favorite flower, and another with lilacs, my personal favorite. There were Disney characters.
Frogs to honor a daughter. Fireworks to note a son.  Scraps from dresses I made the girls. Fabric I brought from China to make the girls’ Easter frocks several years ago.

There were swatches from family army uniforms to remember those who served our country and a piece from my wedding gown.

And there were small words of wisdom woven into cloth. Admonitions to find joy. The encouragement that maybe life isn’t as bad as one day’s circumstances might indicate.

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the Master calls a butterfly,”  from Richard Bach, in subdued chartreuse with a pencil sketched cocoon.

I made the quilts so that they could decorate a bed or hang on a wall. They can keep the girls warm, but they are more than that. They are beautiful, but they are more than that. They remind us of places, moments, and people.
Once complete, each patch in place, the quilts were not finished. I added a new backing to each one. I began the chore of sewing the layers together. Making old and new one thing.

I hosted a quilting bee for family and friends and took pictures for the scrapbooks I hope to bestow on each girl “someday.”

Yet they still were not finished. I wanted the girls to have their quilts before they finished growing up. Then I found Annie.

Annie was an Amish lady who could quilt faster than I can blink. Work that would take me more years took her weeks. And I got to tell the girls about the Amish way of life.

No electricity. No television, computers, ipods or Ipads. No dishwashers, no electric washers or dryers. No radios. No household telephones.
Just work, prayer, fellowship, and artistry.

Two piles of fabric. Begun by a loved one and an unknown one. Stitched into memory and meaning over time.

And now there are two new girls and two more old quilts and more opportunities to haunt fabric stores. Our family received a new granddaughter in 2017 and a great-granddaughter in 2018. Two baskets of scraps in my sewing room. Two more coverings of memory in process.

Annie has passed on, but a younger family member of hers carries on the work. The generations sewn together with thread.

I only knew one grandparent and have no memory of a word from him just for me. His voice and those of my other grandparents came to me secondhand from my parents.

Quilts: generations sewn together through words and fabric and passed to younger ones to carry with them, keep them warm, and show them beauty.

My voice, firsthand, to them.

Revised from August 2016

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22 Replies to “Life Quilt: A Voice for the Future”

  1. Just beautiful. Such a gift of love for the girls and for us as we read about it. I pray they always cherish your special gift to them and hear your words and love spoken through the gift and may it remind them of the words and love Jesus gave us from the gift of the cross.

  2. What a beautiful legacy you’re leaving behind for your grandchildren! They will value your personal touch and all of the family oriented precious reminders that are sewn into those quilts. Each quilt holds also the story of its careful making by you, by neighbors and friends, and even by Amish quilters. You’ve made a tangible object that will bind the hearts of your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren to you all of their lives. They have visible evidence of your love.

  3. This story really moved me. I love your dedication to the quilts. It’s beautiful. It reminds me a bit of an antique washstand that now stands in my loft. It was my great-great-grandmothers. It was given to her by my great-great-grandfather on their wedding day. I never knew them. It was handed down to my grandfather. I grew up wondering about the washing bowl and the people who had washed there. Now I have it and my children get to wonder about the long family line behind it. Your granddaughter and great-granddaughter will appreciate their treasures, even more so because you put so much love into them.

    1. Wow, Stephanie! What a wonderful story! And the generations are joined in water and cleanliness. A picture of baptism here too. Thanks for commenting. God bless!

  4. I love the symbolism here… how each one of us weaves into the tapestry of the life of others, and ultimately into God’s plans. Nice work, and I bet the quilts are fantastic!

  5. I can’t sew anything, but I love quilts. I especially love the meaning behind yours. What a treasure this is to be handed down to the next generation. Very creative! A memory that lives on and on.

  6. Love this Nancy. Quilts are full of wonderful memories and so much care. How wonderful that you continue to infuse bits of the last into the future generations.

    1. Thank you, Brittany. So great to make memories–through the experience of time together or through the gift of a thing crafted on their behalf. We are blessed when we give either way. God bless!

  7. Oh Nancy, I am crying as I write this comment. What a beautiful ode to the wonders of sharing traditions from generations to generations. Your line, “The generations sewn together with thread.” just moved my heart so deeply. My grandmother quilted for me when I was young, but I never kept her work. It’s lost to the years. My mother-in-law is a lovely quilter and has done beautiful work for our daughters. Such a gift! If she weren’t 300 miles away, I would drive to her house and hug her neck right now. Blessings, my sister!

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