Friday, May 23, 2014

When Antiquity Meets Modernity

Once upon a time I was sent a lovely note through my quilting Facebook page, This Quilting Mama. It read, "Hi Lynn - I hope you are doing well. I have a very random reason for contacting you. I'm cleaning out my parent's basement and found my grandmother's quilt squares that I had always wanted to have assembled. I know you are an avid quilter... would you consider taking on the project? Or know someone who might? Or any advice? Thanks in advance for any help you can give!
Best regards, Carol"

Carol and I went to Westminster Choir College, in Princeton, New Jersey for our undergrad years. The school is outrageously small and therefore everyone knows almost everything about each other. I haven't seen Carol since in mid-1990s, but do keep up via Facebook.

What a pleasant surprise! "Sure, I'll look at the blocks, but can't promise anything."
This is what I received.

Antique fan blocks, completely hand pieced using 1930s fabrics, set on muslin with black blanket stitching. I was completely blown away. They were in great shape and had vibrant colors, no staining, etc.

The project began under the mantra "Art takes time. I hope you aren't in a rush."
Carol confirmed that these blocks had been in a hope chest for decades, so therefore, what's a little more time?

Here is their story in Carol's own words:
"These fan pieces were made for my grandmother by her sister in 1938 on the occasion of her wedding.  My grandmother and grandfather lived in Los Angeles and these pieces were moved around Southern California for many years in a cedar chest until she moved to Texas to live with my family in 1990.  When she showed them to me, it was her great desire to have them finally turned into a usable quilt, instead of sitting dormant and unseen. 

I love the variety of colors used throughout the pieces, and am so excited to see it finally assembled.  While my grandmother, Marie, is no longer with us, this will be a beautiful reminder of both her and my great aunt, Margie. 

It took me awhile to find someone to piece them together, but it has been worth the wait!"

"My grandma (Marie) and my grandpa (Keith) from their wedding in 1938."
Cutting the blocks to one standard size was my first psychological hurdle. They were amazing and it seemed that Great Aunt Margie's spirit was sitting on my shoulder as I tried to decide how to proceed.
The pressure, all internal, was immense. Finally, I did it and made that first cut, then the next challenge appeared. What background fabric that would work with all these amazing colors?
I searched high and low and eventually found this yellow with little letters and roses at a quilt shop in New Jersey.

The first attempt at a layout can be seen here.

Once pieced, we were off to see Eileen McCabe, of Quilting Threads in Schenectady, New York.
Eileen and her husband had definite concerns about the long arm machine and the fragile antique blocks. Therefore, we decided upon custom quilting within the sashing and a rose pattern in all the triangle setting side units.

The final result is just stunning and no photo can seem to do it justice.

Unable to deliver this quilt in person, I mailed it to Carol.
She, kindly, called me before opening it. Present at the time were her parents and sister. It was a very moving moment even for me, hundreds of miles away and on the phone.

These are the reviews in her own words:

 Carol writes, "My sister said this: 'What an incredible project this turned out to be. Seeing our Great Aunt's handiwork turned into such a lovely quilt was very touching. I'd be lying if I didn't say we could feel her presence in the room as we opened up the package that day. A real family heirloom, created by some incredibly talented people. Thank you!!'
I will tell you that both my parents had tears in their eyes as we collectively unfolded the quilt.  They had forgotten that I had sent off the squares to you, and it was such a wonderful and touching surprise to share as a family. My grandmother has been gone for more than 10 years now and having this "new" quilt is kind of like having a gift from her. My grandmother would be so happy to see the quilt in it's final state.  She always had wanted it finished, but these things just, well, life gets in the way. 
I can't imagine being any happier with how it turned out.  The incredible handiwork of the assembly down to the attention to detail in the quilting pattern... I am overjoyed to have this memento of times past. Thank God people like you have kept traditions like quilting alive.  Please pass along my warmest thanks to the other ladies who had a part in this project.  
Sending you big hugs and my heartfelt thanks for completing this incredible work of art. 

You are most certainly welcome, Carol.

The intersection of antiquity and modernity worked out to challenge, to inspire and to touch many people through this project.
I hope your Grandmother and Great Aunt are smiling on us now. 

With gratitude for the opportunity and experience,
aka. This Quilting Mama