Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Grandma's Quilt

Almost without exception, every memory I have of my Grandma (my dad's mom), comes from the home where she and my Grandpa raised their 4 boys.  It was a little cottage with a round-top door and the most wonderful garden, right in the heart of Alexandria, Virginia.  They moved out of that house many years ago now, so a lot of my memories are a bit hazy, but some are still razor sharp.  I remember the smell of their basement, with its rickety stairs and cold cement floors.  Grandma walked those steps hundreds of times during the decades she spent in that house, lugging endless loads of laundry up and down for my dad and his brothers.  I remember her tiny, cheerful kitchen where she used to watch birds flutter around the garden.  Bluebirds were her favorite and I still love them because of that today.  One of my favorite things about that house, though, was the little table that she got when her first grandchild was born.  That little girl was me, and Grandma made a special place for me to sit in the dining room at my very own bright red table with a matching chair.  She put my name on the table, and as each of her other 5 grandchildren arrived she added each of their names, too.  I loved that little table.  I think she left it out even when we weren't visiting, just as a reminder of the 6 little ones across the country (and for awhile, across the world) who she loved so much.  I know she prayed for us all everyday, and I treasure every memory I have of her.

My grandma died in March of 2003, back when I was just a sophomore in college.  She was ready to go Home, and while it was so sad for Grandpa, all four of her boys, and her grandchildren, we all rejoiced that she was peacefully at home with her Father.  She had such a strong and beautiful faith.  When I was little, every time she sent me a card or letter, she would always include a small length of ribbon with a Bible verse reference written on it in pen.  Just a verse that was on her heart; something she wanted to share with me.  She continued that tradition right up until she passed away, and I especially treasure those little scraps of ribbon I received during my first 2 years of college.  It was so wonderfully grounding to know that even though so much of my life had changed since starting college, Grandma was still daily praying for and thinking of me. 

After she passed away, many of her things (and lots of the things from the house that my Dad grew up in), were put in a storage unit near the retirement community in Pennsylvania where Grandpa now lives.  Just a few months ago, my parents went down to clear out the unit and decide what should be kept and what should be donated.  One of the things they found was an incredibly old quilt of Grandma's.  It's actually only the pieced top of the quilt, as the back and batting had both worn away over the years.  We're not sure who actually made it, but my mom and I suspect that it was Grandma's mother, Grandma Anna (Grandma's name was Dorothy Anna, and I'm named after the two of them).  My Grandma didn't do much sewing (can you imagine sewing with 4 boys running around, all born 4 years apart?!), but her mother did.  Even though she didn't make it, the quilt is so reflective of Grandma.  The bright, cheerful colors of the tiny postage-stamp sized squares are so like her personality.  While this quilt is only a tiny portion of the warm and lovely home my Grandma made for her husband and sons, I'm so honored to have such a palpable reminder of her and of the house I loved so much as a little girl.

My mom gave me the quilt with the hope that I could come up with a good way to use the crumbling old fabric.  It's much too fragile to use on anything that would suffer more wear and tear, so incorporating it into a pillow cover or a new blanket wouldn't work.  With that consideration in mind, I decided to use some of the fabric to make a few buntings.  Those don't get abused nearly as much as pillows do, so I think this will be a good way to preserve the delicate fabric while still getting to see it every day.

With most of my buntings I don't use a different backing fabric, but just fold the main fabric over onto itself and sandwich the twine between.  This quilt definitely needed some extra support, though, so after creating the template for the pennant's shape, I cut both a piece from the quilt and a matching piece from some cotton canvas.  I used some Wonder Under (basically a double-sided fusible interfacing that can bond two fabrics together permanently) to join the two layers, so I ended up with a nice sturdy pennant that would keep the quilt fabric from further crumbling.  To make a pocket for the twine, I folded back the top inch and sewed it down, creating a nice roomy pocket so the pennants can easily move along the length of the bunting.

I made a bunting each for myself, my sister, and my parents.  My sister and her husband are in the process of buying their first house, and I hope this little reminder of Grandma will find a perfect place in their new home.  The one I made for my parents is a little shorter, with just 5 flags, because I made it specifically to go in my Dad's study.  He spends time in there everyday, and I hope this will be a sweet reminder of his wonderful mom.  As for mine, I'm stringing it across the large bank of windows in my kids' playroom.  The bright colors fit perfectly with the space, but much more importantly, I think it will bring a bit of Grandma's sweetness into the room.  Though they never met her, I want my children to know about my Grandma's love, faith, and kindness.  She shaped their Papa (my dad) and their mommy in so many ways.