The art of quilt making goes back many, long years and handed down from one generation to another. I’m sure it came about as a necessity for many, as times were very hard. People had big families and had to stay warm any way they could and they believed in not wasting a tiny morsel of fabric. Back then homes were hard to keep heated in the winter and the more cover on the beds the better. My daddy and mama said some houses had cracks in them big enough to throw a cat through. My daddy said when he spent the night at an uncle’s house he woke up with a dusting of snow on top of the bed covers. He said that’s the reason why his aunt put so many quilts and blankets on the bed and he felt like he was sleeping under a block of cement.
Coming from a quilting family myself, I watched my grandma and mama make many quilts and was very intrigued by it at an early age. I watched them sew every, little stitch with so much enjoyment and love. I first started out watching my big ma (on my mama’s side) and having a family of ten young’uns there were never enough quilts according to her. In all honesty, there were many beds and back then they didn’t have anything other than a wood heater, wood cook stove, or fireplace to keep heat in the house.
I’d make excuses to go see big ma and pa just to watch her quilt. I’ll never forget the day I got an opportunity to help her. She was a quiet person, especially while she was quilting but when she spoke up and said, “do you want to sew some.” I almost jumped up and down. She threaded that little needle and handed it to me and told me to start sewing and I looked at it for a second and said, “but I can’t make as pretty a stitches as you can.” She said, it doesn’t matter just do your best, we all got to start sometime.” I admit some of those stitches were worse than bad but she never said a word, just kept on sewing. When I look back on it now I realize that’s how she got her start to quilting. I could never count how many quilts she made that I know about, must have been hundreds probably.
Then there was mama and her quilting. Before cold weather started coming in she’d get daddy to help her put up those quilting frames in the largest bedroom. When she lowered those frames and started on one I was right there every stitch of the way. The only difference was that mama would tell me when my stitches became to long or when I was sewing a crooked line. I tried to listen to every bit of advice cause mama was considered to be like big ma in my book. They both were master quilters. Mama learned how to quilt at a very early age by helping her mama.
Mama made many quilts on those old timey quilting frames till she got arthritis in her fingers. I’ll never forget the first fall when mama didn’t put up any frames. I asked her if she planned on doing any quilting and she said, “oh yeah, but from now on they’ll be sewed on the sewing machine.” She only had a pedal sewing machine but she let the hammer down on that thing and made several quilts. Then one day she decided she needed an electric sewing machine and went out and bought her one. I’d help her by putting the quilts together and basting them and when we got one ready I helped to guide it through the sewing machine.
Over the years mama and I made many quilts together and loved every minute of it. After we lost mama I started quilting on my own. I knew mine would never come close to mama or big ma’s but I let the hammer down on those quilts. Over the years I’ve tried to make quilts for all of my family and then some. I have several hanging on quilt racks and always keep one on my bed along with the pillow shams.
Then something happened a few years ago that caused my quilting to come to a halt. I was putting the finishing touches on one when I felt some kind of weird symptoms that can’t be explained. I kept on working till I finished that quilt and that was my last one I’ve attempted to make. I guess it can only be explained by saying my health put me on a journey that’s been a hard road to travel and my quilting was put on the back burner.
But I still look at those quilts hanging on the racks or on the beds and a still, small voice tells me that maybe, just maybe someday the stitching will start again and the quilting fever will last to no end.
Quilting is the life’s blood of a quilter’s soul
Passed down through the generations of time
Knowledge is worth a mountain of gold
To a quilter that’s patiently waiting behind
Each piece is linked with joy and pride
Each stitch sewn by a determined hand
The patience for creation sits closely beside
As only a quilter can understand
The pattern may become bright and bold
It doesn’t matter the color or size
It’s there for the next generation to behold
Then becomes a cherished prize
To the heart of a quilter it’s a joyous pleasure
From the beginning until the cherished end
It’s an honor to make such a lasting treasure
And a quilter is willing to do it all again
But when a quilter’s job is finally done
And they lay their stitching down
The quilting fever has only begun
To a future quilter, what a glorious crown
© Susie Swanson, 2017
The quilt above is one of the last ones I’ve made and the Pattern is called, “Rail Fence.”