Thursday, November 06, 2008

I'm Sew Weird, in a Hallmark Sort of Way

Sewing is a skill that can be traced back through multiple generations of women in my family. Some of my grandmothers made a living from it, like the one who brought some of my Italian genes to the United States, Angela. She worked in a coat factory in New York City during the early 1900's. There was also Margaret, the mother of my maternal grandfather, another factory worker who sewed American flags during WWII. Vincenza, my maternal grandmother, made designer dresses for Macy's in the 1940's. Later in life she taught me how to sew on an old machine that was her mother's. The first thing we ever made together was a quilted make-up case. Grandma said sewing was good for the mind, like figuring out a puzzle. It could be relaxing, actually, if you could find the time to do it. She sewed my mother's school clothes and prom dresses. While raising four children, Vincenza sewed at night to unwind.

My fascination with the skill continues to this day. I can make curtains, and various types of sacks. When I was a teenager I secretly made extra money completing the boys' sewing projects for them in home economics class. Sorry, Mrs. Brines. In college, I tried to make a dress, and when I was finished with the project I showed it to my grandmother. She said, "That's good," then, giggling, added, "Let me fix it." I know the zipper was all twisted and wrong. When she was done it was actually wearable.

A few years ago I started sewing quilts after I took a class. Quilts are one of my favorite things in life, because they are intricate, and tell a story. Even the most simple quilt, to a non-sewer, looks challenging to create. I've made blankees for two of my three children, and I'm about to make one for Baby Bigfoot.

It turns out that these blankets are more valued than favorite toys. My quilts are not perfect; I can point out a million mistakes. They are not kept in boxes, but rather, are dragged everywhere, and resewed in places. These homemade creations bear the brunt of my belief that, in my house, things are meant to be used.

Quilts are complex, but easier to understand if taken in pieces, a lot like life. Every aspect of constructing a quilt is carefully thought through. The fabric, the pattern, the color of the thread all has a reason behind it. No two quilts look alike, even if they come from the same pattern, and each has a unique purpose. I like to think about the life-quilt parallel when I'm sewing, (a little weird, right?). My quilts are crooked in places and the pattern is sometimes out of whack. At times the batting is stubborn, and bunches up a bit while I'm sewing. Nevertheless, my quilts are beautiful. I love giving them away. I've made about eight, but I haven't kept one. Someone who gets a quilt from me is really getting a part of me. When that blanket is a comfort to them, I hope they consider it a hug from me. I wish someone would make me a quilt.

--Two of the quilts I made for the kids.
"We don't accomplish anything in this world alone... and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something."- Sandra Day O'Connor


Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

I have always wanted to make a quilt. These are beautiful!

The Koala Bear Writer said...

That is not weird at all--it's beautiful! When I was in high school, my mom and I sewed quilts together--I made mine and she made my two brother's. Someday, I want to make a quilt for my husband and I. There's a talented quilters group in town who had just a huge display the other week... lovely. It's art.

Anonymous said...

Excellent work. As a kid, I had a quilt that was my favorite blanket. Even older, that quilt was always on the bed and there was a small bit of sadness when it had to be "retired" from active use because it was just beyond repair. And I have met others that have had attachments to quilts as well so I can certainly relate to the personal nature of the them. Don't forget to share the photo of Baby Bigfoot's quilt...


Romy and Andrew said...

I sew too! Before Page I loved to make stuff and a few months ago I thought I would start a quilt for his eventual big boy bed. Alas, it is still in pieces. My hang-up is the butting. Even if I draw a line on the fabric with permanent marker, I can't cut a straight line!

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