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Works of Art … and Love

By Robin Mayes, Farm Educator

Dresden Plate Quilt

The colder temperatures we have been experiencing lately have made me appreciate my homemade quilts even more than usual. Not only have I thrown extra ones on the bed, but I keep one in my favorite chair to wrap up in when I settle-in for the evening.

This month, we focused on quilts with our homeschool and preschool programs here at Gallant Farm, which gave me the opportunity to revisit all of the reasons I love patchwork quilts. The enthusiasm of the youngsters to create their own designs was contagious. Quilts can be not only beautiful works of art, but also represent the frugality of our early American grandmothers. Using even the tiniest scraps of leftover fabrics, our foremothers wasted nothing in their quest to both keep their family warm AND provide a decorative touch to their humble homes.

Applique Quilt with a Maple Leaf

One of my earliest memories is of laughing as I lie on the freshly laundered sheets of my bed while my mother spreads a colorful patchwork quilt over me as she tries to make the bed despite my ‘help.’  The sun shining through those vibrant geometric patches looked almost like stained glass panels and I would beg her to do it over and over.

Even though my mom’s mother was not a quilter, Mom taught herself how to do it. She made traditional patchwork patterns like “Grandmother’s Fan” or “Churn Dash” but she sometimes branched out and designed her own quilts. One day when I came home from kindergarten I proudly presented her with a paper cut in the shape of a maple leaf that I had scribbled with orange, brown and yellow crayons. As mothers do, she acted as if it was one of the most beautiful things she had ever seen. She asked my permission to use it as a pattern for an applique quilt. Of course, I granted it! That quilt, featuring every autumn-colored fabric scrap that she had, remains my very favorite. She made a quilt or afghan for each of her 24 grandkids and many for the great-grandbabies as they came along.

My sisters and I have continued Mom’s tradition by making quilts for our kids and grandkids and for the babies of friends. Sadly, I suspect the number of unfinished quilt-tops I have stashed away outnumbers the quilts I have completed. The making of a pieced quilt requires time and dedication. I am currently working on a crib-sized blanket of an eclectic variety of fluffy fleeces, flannel and calico fabrics in a combination of pale pinks and subtle grays. I am hoping to finish it before my newest grandchild turns one … or at least before she graduates from high school!

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