We feel so fortunate to have a guest post today from Sara Sunderlin. Besides being a customer, Sara is a dear friend of all of us at Modern Textiles. Sara learned to sew from her grandmother and mom when she was five years old. As a self-proclaimed fabric addict she loves to visit Modern Textiles frequently. Sara teaches in the Apparel, Retail Merchandising and Design department at NDSU. Thanks for sharing your story with us today Sara!
Every quilt has a story, make sure to tell the story. I was recently reminded of the importance of this statement. When I graduated from college, my mom gave me a quilt she had made of scraps of fabric from clothing she had made for me as a child. She hand quilted it and did a hand blanket stitch around 180 mini Sun Bonnet Sue blocks. It is a treasured possession, but equally treasured is the hand written note that she gave me. In this letter she outlined what she was thinking about while she worked on my quilt and favorite memories she had of us sewing together and our many, many trips to the fabric store. She even had my brother calculate how many times the needle went through the fabric to quilt the piece. Fast forward 24 years and I found myself making a quilt for my mom for her birthday. I knew I needed to write down the story of her quilt. It turned out to be a very long story containing lots of interesting facts I would have easily forgotten over a short amount of time.
I believe as makers, quilters, sewists, seamstresses, etc. we have a story to tell about the textile items we work on. In most cases the items we create take time and time is certainly a precious commodity. We chose to create items for people we love, but we often forget to tell them the rest of the story. Remember to tell the story.
Here’s the story I wrote for my mom….
I hope you enjoy your quilt. It was an interesting project and I certainly loved making it for you. I have a friend at school who frequently says, “but it sure makes a good story,” after hearing something that has happened. I think this quilt makes a good story as well so I wanted to tell you about it. I remember when you made my Sun Bonnet Sue quilt and gave me your hand written notes about your construction process. I read those notes often and cherish them.
When dad was in the hospital and people asked about the quilt that he was covered with and who made it, he would enthusiastically point to you and you would often tell the person about that quilt. I knew you were proud to talk about it and I knew dad was proud that you had made it. I started thinking about how many quilts you have gifted to other people, yet very few have been made for you and even fewer that you have made for yourself. I set out to remedy that situation, but not without the help of many others and for sure some divine intervention.
You might recall that on August 2nd I took a bag making class at Modern Textiles. I had in my head that I wanted to make a quilt for your birthday but it was going to have to be an easy pattern. You often times tell me that if it is meant to be it will just work out. This story is no exception. I knew I would be at the store that day and could buy any of the fabrics I needed. But the missing link to the project was that I would NEVER be able to quilt this piece myself. I would never have enough time or skill or patience to get that completed.
On August 1st I contacted a very talented long arm quilter in Fargo named Stephanie. I knew her from quilt guild. My plan was to tell her my story in hopes that she would be able to help find someone for my project. Much to my surprise, she said under the circumstances she would be able to work it in to her schedule if I could get it to her by August 8th. I went to the fabric store knowing that you and I have very different tastes in fabric colors. Modern Textiles had some kits available – already pre-packaged, I wouldn’t even have to think. Perfect. The kit is called Quilting 101 – again, perfect fit. There were three options – a very pastel pallet, an Alice in Wonderland theme and this one – a farm theme. Perfect.
I brought the fabrics home and thought about my game plan. The next day we would be going to the cities for four days so no sewing. I thought through how I would attack this project on the following Monday, I read the directions and visualized sewing the pieces together. On Monday morning, August 7th I started cutting the pieces according to the instructions. I had the quilt top cut and pieced by 11:00 that morning. On Monday afternoon I went back to the fabric store to pick up border, backing and binding fabrics. Tuesday morning I pieced the back and by Tuesday after lunch I was on my way to the gracious long arm quilter who agreed to take on this project.
Stephanie is a talented lady for sure. She explained that she wanted to do an all over pattern given the time frame we were working with. I agreed. In my head I was thinking a stippling, meandering type design would be great. She took a dry erase marker and a piece of clear plastic and began to draw out a design on top of the quilt blocks. She said the flowers would be easy, something she had done lots of times before. I was amazed by her thought process and ease of drawing.
On Wednesday August 16th Stephaine called to say the quilt was done. It turned out so much better than I could have even imagined. Now to the binding – I knew that process was going to take a bit, but it is one of my favorite tasks so I was looking forward to it. Saturday August 19th happened to be an open sew day at Quilt Guild. I brought your quilt to sew on the binding. I stitched the binding on the machine late on Friday night. I got to the final joint and the binding was a bit larger than it should have been. I sewed it anyway, thinking it would be just fine. Like often happens I thought of Grandma Edna early the next morning at about 5:00 a.m. and how she’d always question if the stitches were good enough to take to the fair. I knew they were not. I got up early the next morning and fixed my 3/8” mistake by taking out the 6 inches of binding that was too big. It fits so well now you maybe can’t even find that joint, but I know where it is. Isabelle helped me get it washed and we took it outside to take pictures.
As I was piecing the front of the quilt I thought about the fabric prints. In the original kit there were two pieces of pale pink prints. They didn’t look like you so I replaced them both with orange prints. I knew you liked orange better. The giant gingham reminds of the small green gingham check in Grandma Edna’s apron. The owls and the chickens remind me of all of the animals we see when we visit the farm. The flowers and ladybugs remind me of all the flowers you tend to all summer to make your yard look nice.
That’s the story of your birthday quilt. I have one final request, maybe even a demand…. please USE it, don’t save it like the placemats from Christmas! Please use it and when you do, remember how much you are loved. I’m thankful everyday that you and Grandma Edna took the time to teach me to sew, to love textiles and to have an eye for quality work. It’s not easy to live up to those standards. There’s a sign that hangs from the ceiling in the workroom of a Chicago custom suit manufacturer – it says “Always Be Faithful to Quality”. There’s an awful lot of truth to that statement and the way I was taught. I often say I was classically trained in sewing.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM! I LOVE YOU!
Thank you Sara for sharing your story with us! Your mom’s quilt is beautiful! Sara used a Quilting 101 kit from the shop and added a 4″ border to the quilt. Do you have a favorite quilt story? We would love to hear it and share it. Email us at email@example.com and tell us all about it.