My friendship feature for today is my talented mother. It’s now been 3 years since the family gathered for a Quilt Legacy Christmas where four children, eleven grandchildren and eight great grandchildren were gifted 45 of her quilts. Mother planned to give away her quilts when she turned 80. The celebration had been talked about for years and the time had finally come. We met at Mom & Dad’s home and enjoyed a lovely prime rib dinner together. It’s rare when the whole gang can be together at the farm, so it was a very joyous occasion filled with laughter, anticipation and a bit of craziness. (They graciously bedded down an extra 25 of us for several nights!)
Mother’s desire to give away her quilts at age 80 was influenced by Nebraska Quilt Hall of Fame inductee, Grace Snyder. Her autobiography “No Time on my Hands” was referred to and quoted by Mother in her quilt classes. Her ladies may have been inspired by Grace’s life and legacy, but I can assure you they were motivated by Janet B and her quilts.
Mom tells her girls that I got her started in quilting. I was quite excited about a quilting class I took shortly after getting married. Mother was an expert seamstress and had sewn all of her life so I suggested she should start quilting. Within a couple weeks, she found a nine patch sampler class in a nearby city. She didn’t love it right away. She made a few blocks and set it aside for over a year. Nonetheless, Mother is excellent at finishing projects so she determined to complete it. She pieced this first quilt entirely by hand. The long borders would have taken no time to finish with the sewing machine, but she wanted an authentic pioneer experience. Joining a local quilt club, she learned the joys of hand quilting which she became exquisitely proficient at. Pouring herself into books and projects, she quickly caught the “quilt bug”. It is highly contagious, and many of her friends, family members, and students caught it from her!
During the next 3.5 decades she completed over 80 quilts, 20 baby quilts, and several hundred wall hangings and small projects. Her sewing room has the feel of a cozy little quilt shop with baskets of patterns and notions, shelves of quilting books, a collection of pin cushions, and cupboards full of fabrics waiting for her creative touch. Inspiring mini quilts hang on the walls. At any given time, there are probably a dozen or more quilted projects in process at various stages waiting their turn to be completed. Who knows how many additional quilts she has envisioned and will complete!
In the course of her learning to quilt, Mother joined several guilds and held offices at local and state levels. Except for a couple of classes, she was self taught. Her enthusiasm and skills grew, and she was asked to give programs, classes and eventually quilt shows. Her programs wove facts, folklore and an occasional poem, as she told the story of each piece. The large stack of wall hangings in her collection would include traditional, patriotic, folk art, whimsical, country living (lots of chicken quilts!), floral, geometric, pieced, and appliqué. Some were embellished with embroidery, charming buttons, ribbons or colored threads. Her examples would stir your imagination and fill you with desire to learn and create. Each piece would include a creative label on the back documenting the year, name of quilt, and other pertinent information in her lovely handwriting. These labels developed into a creative masterpiece themselves with designs that would coordinate with the front of the quilt.
She gave a total of 63 presentations (trunk shows) in four different states. In preparation for a presentation, the car would be completely loaded with quilts, wall hangings, and conduit quilt stands that Dad made to display full size quilts that would be her backdrop. The furthest she traveled was to Northwest Arkansas to give a presentation that was filmed by PBS at the historical Headquarters House.
I lived states away, but was able to attend several of her classes, trunk shows, and quilt exhibits. It always makes me proud to see how people respond to her work and her teachings. She is well known and well loved! Women would sign up for her classes before they even knew what she would be teaching to make sure there was space available. Rich friendships were made through these intimate one on one classes. When she retired from teaching at age 80, she was traveling three nights a week for her 3 hour, 10 week classes. She drove nearly 30 miles one way to teach at a community college for these spring and fall classes. When one class would fill up, she would arrange another night. She had a heart to see that anyone who wanted to learn would have the opportunity. I am so proud of her workmanship, her love of helping others, her organization, her eye for color, and her attention to detail. Her legacy of quilting has been generously shared!
There is much to share about this great quilter and her quilt legacy, but let me proceed with her presentations to the family. Our special evening started by gathering the great grands at the fireplace hearth where Mom had dozens of quilts stacked in certain order. As she presented each quilt, she would share the pattern name and story of the quilt. Each child was excited to receive the quilt Grandma Janet had for them. We took a short break and all retreated to the living room for the grandchildren’s turn. As Mother wove her way through the birth order, she displayed each quilt on the stand, shared the quilt story and talked about the quilt label on the back of each quilt. She then shared the significance of why she was sharing it with that grandchild and we documented each quilt with Grandma Janet and the recipient and the quilt alone. There were lots of hugs and tears. She captivated us through three rotations of the grands as each received 3 legacy quilts. I’ll share photos of the quilts our children received.
After each of the eleven grandchildren received a quilt, we took a break for fellowship. This first intermission included a presentation by Dad. He gave a notebook to each child and grandchild that included updated pages to his book “Fun on the Farm”, photos of family, news articles, and family history. He is very interested in family history and has written documents recording the history of our family church, and self published a book of our family history called “Fun on the Farm”. It was truly a memorable legacy evening.
For Christmas presents this year, I made several photo books for our kids. One was a Quilt Legacy Christmas book complete with all of the quilts given away that evening. The memory of the wondrous evening is fresh in my mind. I continue to marvel at the workmanship of these quilts. My love for this generous quilter and her historian husband fills me with gratefulness. I’m thankful for my precious parents and the legacy they leave for generations to come.
This legacy runs much deeper than beautiful quilts and family history. They have instilled within us the love of family, a good work ethic, appreciation of a simple life, the joy of serving others and faith in Christ as our personal savior.
I’d love to hear about legacies in your family.
Let us consider the legacy that we will leave behind.