Along with the last quilt for customer Beth M.’s daughter, I sent a quilted backpack as a “thank you gift with purchase”. I thought a young girl might find it fun to carry a few things around with it. Beth, though, seemed to have other ideas… she told me it was so cute, she almost kept it for herself!
So what do you think I made as a thank you when I finished her latest quilt? Well, a backpack just for Beth, of course!
You can read all about the process of designing and creating the Princess Mildred and the Pea quilt, but part of the story is that I went to four different fabric stores to find enough of the 1930s reproduction kitten fabric for the backing. It really was the purr-fect choice, though, and worth it, even though, as a quilt back, it will rarely get seen.
Using that same fabric for the backpack, though, means it finally gets the attention it so richly deserves. After adding a pink gingham and a black dot, Beth finally has an adorable vintage backpack of her own!
Ok, apologies up front, but I’m going to do some gushing about this custom quilt because it’s just so cool and I’m just so excited to send it off to customer Beth M. today…
This is the 6th quilt I’ve made for Beth (returning customers are the best!) and it is the culmination of a lot of thoughtful effort to bring together everything she loves into one final piece.
Beth’s love of quilts is genetic – she’d inherited several gorgeous quilts from her great-grandmother that she shared photos of with me. There are nods to her great-grandmother’s work in the choice of 1930s reproduction fabrics and in the baptist fan quilting that I did in the border (see right). Great-grandma did her baptist fans by hand, though!
The bottom quilt in the center represents Beth’s favorite family quilt – a traditional nine-patch. In an effort to replicate it closely, I tea-stained modern fabric the right shade for the vintage muslin. The other four quilts are based on quilts she had me make for her children – love of quilts will carry on in this family for sure!
The pieced kitty sleeping on top of the quilts is the family’s much loved tuxedo cat, Mildred. Mildred passed on during the year we’ve been working together, so this quilt has become a memorial to a much missed furry friend, as well.
In working with Beth, her devotion to her children and her desire to create a loving home for them were her most obvious characteristics. So I chose a block for the border called “Nest and Fledglings” to reflect that dynamic. Using those Nest and Fledgling blocks around the outside to pull everything together was the perfect metaphor for a mom’s warm embrace.
Literally every design element in this quilt was chosen to have a meaningful association for Beth and her family, past and present. And I wanted every detail to be perfect. For instance, the backing features a 1930 reproduction fabric with tiny black and white kittens tossed on a mint background – I went to four different stores to get enough of it! And that’s even knowing she plans to hang this quilt and the backing will probably never get seen 😀
Again my apologies for the long post. But this feeling of happiness mixed with giddy satisfaction is just spilling out of me this morning. I’ve been blessed to make something so beautiful – and so meaningful – for another person.
This is why I create custom quilts.
The classic Depression-era quilting tale always touches on how nothing was wasted – every scrap of fabric was used by thrifty seamstresses determined to grimly “make do” with what they had.
That description always seems so sad to me. Scrappy quilts are happy quilts! They are every voice singing in perfect harmony. Every person doing their part to make the world a better place. Every piece coming together to make a larger whole.
When I had leftover fabric from Beth M.’s recently completed 1930s Irish Chain quilt, I didn’t just want her thank you gift to “make do”.
I wanted the gift to make her smile.
It took a LOT of time to piece all those little blocks together, quilt them and hand embroider the names on the stocking cuffs. As it is, she had her custom quilt for nearly a month before the stockings were ready to ship!
But they were so worth it. I can’t help but imagine Beth, her children – and Santa! – all smiling when they see these scrappy, happy stockings.
I once read an article about “divorce quilts”, textile art projects made to help process the difficult decision to end a marriage. I can definitely see the therapeutic value, but I like what customer Beth M. had in mind much better… she asked me to make a quilt celebrating the start of her and her children’s new life.
The overall design of her quilt is vintage 1930s, a postage stamp Irish Chain design on a white background (all the squares are reproduction 1930s fabrics.) Appliqués appear in the areas formed by the chain, each turned under and hand embroidered with a blanket stitch – again, an old-fashioned, classic technique.
In a way, the design builds on history to create a new future. That feeling is echoed in her choice of appliqué ideas. There are blocks that represent heritage – a shamrock for Ireland, a thistle for Scotland – and blocks that represent now – a beloved family pet and shared activities like movie watching. Every single element in this quilt is meaningful and all are designed to symbolize the foundation on which she and her children will create their new life.
When Beth and her children curl up in this quilt, it’s not just their bodies being warmed, it’s their hearts, too. This is why I make quilts. I want to create beautiful, thoughtful, treasured keepsakes that touch people deeply. Laugh, cry, reminisce and dream about your bright, new future ~ a good quilt should encourage all that and more.