I only really learned to sew in the summer of 2009. It was a year of wonderful and devastating change. I married a kind, funny, brilliant and amazing man in May, my husband David. And then in October, after a relatively short illness, I lost a kind, funny, brilliant and amazing man, my father.
Early in that year, I asked my mother for a sewing machine as a birthday present. I’m not sure why I wanted one. Though I could sew by hand — my mother is a clever sewer and had taught me — I didn’t really know how to use a sewing machine. Perhaps with the wedding coming up, and presents and registries on the brain, I was thinking that it was something that every household should have, along with certain kitchen gadgets. It was a great sewing machine, but it went in the closet with all the shower and wedding presents.
Sometime that summer, my dad got sick. I was terrified and powerless. I needed something to do, to make, to focus on. Fortuitously, I wandered past Cloth and Bobbin, a local fabric store. I thought about my mom and how we went shopping for fabric that she would magically turn into clothes. I went in. I saw beautiful prints. I bought some yards with no project in mind.
I picked up some books about sewing on the way home. I read.
I thought, “I can do it! I’m going to sew something!” I looked around, wondering what might be handy for David and me in our cozy little condo built for one. And I decided, because I clearly wasn’t thinking straight:
“A full-sized quilt!”
Never mind that I had no idea what went into making a quilt. I didn’t even know how to thread my machine. I got out the instruction manual, wound my first bobbin ever and sewed on computer paper to practice basic stitches.
I went to various local fabric shops and picked up batting and more fabrics and rulers and scissors and thread and chalk.
I thought, patterns schmatterns! I used a calculator, colored pencils and graph paper and made a design. I measured and cut and sewed and binded and stayed up late. Less than a week later, I was done.
It wasn’t until I was finished that I realized what I had created: a big collage of my family. My fabric choices were all based on memories of my family.
There was a Guatemalan pattern that represented an amazing trip I took with my sister E, brother M and sister-in-law C.
There was a Japanese-inspired pattern that reminded me of the years when my brother A and his wife A lived in Japan. I was still a kid and I thought it was amazing and exotic to have a brother in Japan. And it’s even a fish motif! My sister’s husband D is an avid fisherman.
My father loved red delicious apples and would eat them with a paring knife, whittling them down to to the tiniest of cores. The red horizontal stripes that run throughout are his beloved college’s color.
The scripty letters are for my brother M and me. We are both professional writers.
The quilt itself, is representative of sewing with my mom, of course. And I made something to keep my new husband and me warm.
I thought I was creating something that would take my mind off of what was going on. I was really just reminding myself of what was so important.