Family Quilts

May has been a whirlwind of a month.  I’ve got lots to share with you today; lots of pictures and lots of thoughts.  Please forgive me up front if I bore you with my personal “adventures.”

First off, I’d like to share Judy’s quilt with you.  This was a quilt made for a family reunion (which was held Memorial Day weekend), for auctioning off to help raise money for family members in need.  I think Judy is a jewel for doing this and for being so charitable with helping others.  She doesn’t get any money for what she does or donates, but it’s for a good cause!  She said each year the bids for her quilts get bigger – I think they like having her quilts and a part of the family’s history.  Really cool!

I don’t have as many pictures as I’d thought, because some of them accidentally got deleted, but here’s a full shot of her quilt.

Stephenson Quilt

And, here is a close up of the blocks.  Judy said the colored parts of the quilt blocks reminded her of hands and feet holding on to each other, much like a family does.  Cool, huh?  So, now do you see all the inter-connectedness of the blocks in the full shot above?


I added my touch by quilting swirls and heart-shaped leaves as in a family tree and vine.   I also added a “title,” so to speak, to the quilt to make it more of an heirloom for future generations.


And, I added some early generation names/couples with years.  I think if I were to do it over again, I’d put the couples in their own block with the following generations in blocks below them.  That way, the quilting density would be more even.

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The result?  This quilt sold for $1,400!!!  Wowzers!!!  Of course, it was Judy’s brother who bought it (what a loving brother!), so you can imagine why he bought it.  But still!  That’s a lot of moo-lah!

Another quilt I’ve been working on in May was Claudia’s quilt.  This quilt did a number on my head.  Not that it was Claudia’s fault by any stretch of the imagination.  She is a dear and was a dear for being so patient with me during and after my mini-melt-down with her quilt.  It took me a couple of weeks to finish it.  This quilt is a Christmas gift for her brother, who is a farmer.  I think Claudia is smart for working on her Christmas gifts all year long and not waiting until the last minute.  She’s bringing them to me as she finishes; smart move since I am now booked until September.  Each quilt I receive after today will get in the queue and before I know it, I will be booked through Christmas.  So, if you are thinking about quilts for Christmas, let your quilter know as soon as you can!  Some of us are booked a year out and some are booked only a few months out.

So, what happened with Claudia’s quilt?  Sigh… it was perfect, simply perfect.  I was crooning over how flat it laid, how square it was, and how the patches all met so perfectly together.  Since her brother is a farmer, we decided to put wheat on the quilt.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s made with homespun plaid, so wheat would be a great design for a guy and a farmer at that.  I started out quilting shocks of wheat in the corners and rows of wheat in the border and then added a row onto the quilt top (this was supposed to be semi-custom; an edge-to-edge allover design similar to a pantograph with a separate border).  I decided it needed something between the row of wheat and the border and so I added clouds.  Simple!

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And, that, my dears, was my UN-doing.  At that point I could see all sorts of things on this quilt top.  The patches reminded me (as they did Claudia also!) of looking down from an airplane at the fields of patchwork land.  And, I wasn’t sure the wheat was what she wanted after all.  Don’t get me wrong; I thought it worked well, but it seemed like it needed something, and if Claudia wasn’t happy with it, there’d be an awful lot of frogging (rip it!  rip it!) to do.

So, I called Claudia and sent her a couple of pictures to make sure she was happy with it.  We talked about it and Claudia said it was okay for me to add something if I wanted.  NOTE: CLAUDIA SAID IT WAS OKAY!!!  We started talking about farm items to add, and that’s where I fell into the abyss of artist wonderland.  I hung up the phone and went back to look at the quilt.  My mind went wild with ideas of drawing a barn, a windmill, and a whole entire farm!  Some cows, some sheep, rolled bales of hay, a barn cat…here some wheat, there some wheat, everywhere some wheat, wheat…




But, wait! This is not MY quilt!  And, about the time I started drawing in the windmill, my husband comes down and asks… “What are you doing?”  Eyes big and glazed over with entranced excitement, I responded as any one would do and said, “Nothing!”  And, that is what brought me back down to earth and started my mental battle with my quilting of other people’s quilts.  When I quilt a customer quilt, it is my intent for my quilting to be in the background of the quilt, to be subtle so that the first thing you see is the quilt and then you can see the indentations of where the quilting is.  I want it to compliment the quilt top, but not overpower the quilt.  I don’t want my quilting to be at the forefront of the quilt.  And, that was what I was seeing with Claudia’s quilt.

I cannot begin to explain the mental anguish I went through after I’d gotten this far on the quilt.  And, actually, at the point of my husband asking me what I was doing, I just had the windmill and the top of barn drawn/stitched on along with the rows of wheat that had been sown and rolled into hay bales.  I went back and forth, back and forth with what to do.  I was feeling so guilty for “taking over” Claudia’s quilt.  And, I was, at this point, stuck.  I couldn’t seem to get myself to work on it anymore, I felt so bad about it all.  I just wanted to cry, because I had just sabotaged my philosophy that the customer comes first; the reason why I don’t like to suggest quilting styles to my customers – I want it to be theirs, not mine.  All I can say is that Claudia has been such a dear throughout this whole thing.

Finally, I had to do something.  I needed to move forward so that I could get on to the next customer quilts.  I wrote down on a post-it note the things Claudia had suggested said I could add to the quilt and I put that on top of the quilt.  I would put those things on there and then just put rows of wheat.  This was not my quilt.  It was a difficult couple of weeks as my machine sat idle, but I finally pulled my head out of my butt and finished the quilt.  I was shaking in my boots as I finished it, nervous about whether or not Claudia would be okay with her quilt.  I decided to send pictures and an invoice to her of the final product when it was finished so she could be prepared when she picked up her quilt.

Here is what I added (per post-it note; my way of saying Claudia “approved” me doing this beforehand).  Well… the barn cat was my husband’s suggestion after he’d seen the anguish I was feeling from drawing all over somebody’s quilt.  Yes, the tractor has a flat tire; it’s a fact of life on the farm.  😉

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What the wheat shocks look like on the back of the quilt…


And, here is the finished product, front and back.  Claudia has been so gracious about this quilt, raving about how beautiful the quilting is.   I could hug her for being so kind.  I’d like to think that when we step back from the quilt, we see the patchwork farm fields.  I sure hope her brother sees the patches through the fields (trees vs. forest analogy).

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And now for the moral of the story…

In 2011, when I was supposed to start my quilting business, I developed a retinal detachment in an area of my eye where I would not notice the symptoms.  By the time I started having symptoms several months later, a lot of damage had been done.  The surgeons repaired what they could.  I ended up having 8 eye surgeries (6 on my left eye and 2 on my right eye) between 2011 and 2013.  I spent a lot of time laying on my side on the couch in 2012 with waaaay too much time to think (several months of laying there doing nothing; no reading, no sewing, no getting up and walking around, etc).  And, I did a lot of “negotiating” with God.  I am legally blind in my left eye with my eyesight being 20/400 in that eye (20/40 in my right eye).  Sometimes they test me at 20/200 if I’m having a good day.  My depth perception is messed up, but I can pick up textures in a quilt top like never before, I think because of the lack of depth perception.

When I FINALLY was able to sew again and quilt again, I was surprised at the art I was able to create with my quilting.  I don’t know how I do it.  I just do it.  I think I must have an angel on my shoulder, because I can’t believe that it’s me stitching those stitches.  So, there’s a part of me that thinks I must have been given a gift and I should share it with others so that they, too, can smile.  This is what I struggled with when I was working on Claudia’s quilt just now.  How do I know where to “help” and not to help, “share” and not to share, “give” and not give?

It is my belief that we are put on this earth to help others.  We are here for one another, not just to make ourselves happy.  Sometimes bad things happen to us, but it’s okay.  Because through those bad things, lessons can be learned if we just allow ourselves to learn the lesson.  I think there was a lesson for me through this whole process.  It was a reminder to me that the quilts do not belong to me, they belong to my customers and they are the ones who need to be happy, not my egotistical artsy-fartsy mind (or… my evil twin) that may think I am creating heirlooms and giving a gift to others through my art.  Yes, I am a Thread Artist.  But, that does not mean I need to put “my stamp” on every quilt that passes my way.  I can enhance quilts without overpowering them.  I only hope I can remember that with the next quilt that passes my way.  <sigh, but laughing out loud>

By the way, I have a video on my YouTube channel if you’d like to see how I draw the tiny wheat kernels.  The link for it is here, but it’s not a good video at all.  I ran the camera myself, and the handles of my machine are in the way so you can’t see anything the first half of the video.  If you zoom past the first half, you might be able to see SOME of it – lesson learned for next time!


2 thoughts on “Family Quilts

  1. thanks so much for sharing!!….I just sent my first quilt to work with my hub…..35 yr old double wedding ring hand pieced by great grandmother….I had it over 2 months…i was so scared….I could not even get all the stains out of it…but I did feathers….it called for them and some cross hatching….I sent it with my love!!…real vintage pieces in it; some from 1800’s……so thanks for you honesty!!.I was meant to read it!! Karen


    • Isn’t it funny how our thoughts can paralyze us? I’d be worried, too, if I had my great grandmother’s hand pieced quilt to work on. Wowzers! I think I’d be like a dog burying a bone, but it would be me burying my head in the sand.


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