Friday, June 15, 2007

The Donna Quilt

I have very few items in my possession that would count as family heirlooms. But one item that might fit that definition is a quilt.

I say "might" because this quilt was not handed down through generations but rather made expressly for me. The seamstress was my mother. She decided to make a quilt for each of her children. While my father was bishop (in the church they belonged to) he had to travel. He oversaw a number of states including Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky--and getting around to churches required some travel. When my mother accompanied him, she took along quilting squares and stitched them.

When the whole quilt was finished, she and her two sisters, Ada and Kathryn, got together and assembled the quilt. They attached the backing and the batting, then rolled the quilt on a frame and set about the actual quilting process.

I love that image--three sisters on in years, communally sewing. I bet they reminisced about family, about growing up together, about their lives, their children. I imagine they laughed and maybe cried. Perhaps they even sang.

I have come to see this quilt as a metaphor for me--stitched together of fabric from the snippets of my family.

Here are some of the pieces that go into the Donna quilt:

*my red hair--from uncles Arthur, Mark, and aunts Kathryn, Katherine.
*my being an alto--from my paternal grandmother Climenhaga
*my love of singing four part harmony--from my paternal grandfather Climenhaga
*my ability at art (modest)--from my paternal grandmother Climenhaga
*my being always hotter than anyone else in the room--from my maternal grandmother Slagenweit
*my playing jokes on people--from my maternal Pappap Slagenweit
*my expansive vocabulary--from my father and my uncle Arthur
*my keen interest in politics--from my aunt Leoda
*my love of classical music--from my father and my aunt Leoda
*my skill at baking--from my mother
*my toughness--from my mother
*my being organized--from my father and my mother
*my overall body shape--from the Slagenweits
*my intellect--from the Climenhagas.

Enough pieces! Thankfully, I feel pretty well stitched together. And very grateful to all the people in my family who have contributed to the complex fabric of which I am made.

While I was taking photos of the quilt, my cat Allie climbed on it, and settled in! So she gets her picture in the blog!


Body Soul Spirit said...

Lovely quilt and a lovely way to describe who you are. What pieces have you passed on to your children?

Climenheise said...

I asked Lois if we have one that mother made also (since you said she made one for each of us). She brought it out, and I recognize it as one I like; but I notice that it doesn't fit the colour scheme of any room in the house! Now Lois is thinking of ideas of her own. Thanks for reminding me of this. By the way, in what sense did you mean "hot"? Only a brother would ask.

beth said...

My mom quilts, too. She started in earnest with her first grandchild (my elsest daughter) and has not stopped. My brother and I each have at least two full sized quilts along with three lap quilts - and each child has one baby quilt (lap size) and one twin sized quilt (a rite of passage that they would get around the age of six).

Mom now claims that we don't need anymore, so she is just quilting and stacking them on her bed. I'm trying to help her find a good place to send, battered woman's shelter, etc.

Great post that blessed me to consider my own heritage and memories, passed on through needle and thread.

Mary said...

No one I know quilts. However, my Mother-in-law crocheted a blanket for us back in 1974 - a year before she passed away. The colors don't match anything in my home (like your brother commented) but we keep it in our linen closet Occasionally, I feel it and hold it to my face.

Your heritage "through needle and thread" was a wonderful read, Donna. Made me think about my own fabric and what I have inherited. I think I'll dwell on this for a while.

KGMom said...

Ruth--like any parent, I might say the good pieces in my children come from me; the not-so-good from their dad. Just joking! I think my children are a good mix of things from both sides. From me--love of reading definitely.
Daryl--I wondered if you would remember having such a quilt. As for being hotter--and just what did you think tht meant? Actually it's a laugh--Grandma S. would only have been described as being physically warmer than people. Stories are she turned down the house heat when Pappap went to work, only to turn it up in the evening. When I learned that, I thought--so that's where my high heater comes from.
Beth--good for your mom. Some churches organize quilting groups & send the resulting quilts all sorts of places. People always need the warmth of blankets & quilts.
Mary--quilting is definitely a disappearing art. I don't know how. Some traditions--e.g. Mennonite or Amish--keep it alive. I know how to knit & have down some blanket work with that. That's another story for a post (maybe).

Denise said...

I also have a quilt that Mother and Aunt Kay made (don't know if Aunt Ada also worked on mine or not). It is the same pattern but blue flowered blocks were used instead. At that time my bedroom was blue. It is not blue anymore so I don't use the quilt like I used to. But, what a gift and treasure - that is for sure.

I enjoyed the "pieces" that went into you. Most I relate too, but not all. So Pappap Slagenweit was a prankster? Maybe that is where it comes from.....hmmmmm.

Climenheise said...

Mine is yellow. Denise, blue would go in our house: how about yellow in yours? The prankstere gene seems to have been distributed quite widely. And now that facebook enables continued poking ...

Anonymous said...

As often, your comments evoked a whole set of memories about your mother. Don’t downplay the intellectual side of her family. While they didn’t have the opportunities your father’s side had, she (and her siblings) had a lot of good common sense. And your mother would have surpassed your father academically given the opportunity. She had more gumption and “stick-to-it-evness”. A bittersweet part of this, to me, is that she had a whole lot of patches to start quilts for each of the grandchildren too, when the Lord called her home. Sometime another blog could be “Incompleted Projects.” Verna Mae isn’t into quilting so we gave them to the “Jolly Stitchers” here in the Village Center. Much more I could comment on! I’ll let this stand for now! Love, Father "C"

Laurie said...

I love your quilt. It's beautiful and even more so with your beautiful Allie kitty on it!

Beader Girl said...

What a clever way to take a familial look at yourself. Your 'quilt' doesn't seem like patchwork at all, but rather it is full of purposely chosen pieces. Awesome.

Ginnie said...

Even though you are the first person to own and love the quilt, I am sure that it will be handed down in the future. It's lovely.

Cathy said...

Donna - What a lovely metaphor. I've always considered hand-work like this as precious in that it seems mysteriously to hold some essence of the creators - the now-ness of that second of intent when the creator's will and the needle and thread became one - and fastened that moment of becoming onto fabric. There it resides forever - alongside the other moments.

Old photos record an image in time. A quilt holds time.

nina said...

A wonderful metaphor--the piecing of a quilt into a life.
My mother enjoyed quilts and quilting and I expect I will, too. I say will, because its something I intend to do--just never seem to have the time to lay it out and undertake it. It seems like a huge job!
No wonder Allie is in the picture--my kitty Annie, crawls onto my clothes as soon as I'm out of them--she must be ON them!

Anonymous said...

Love this post Donna. Only the quilter knows how many hours are spent on each quilt - it cannot be truly appreciated but only by another quilter. It is a lovely quilt.