A Different Kind of Golden Wedding Quilt

In my family we have a tradition of making an album quilt for any couple who makes it to 50 years together.  It began in 1977 with my mom’s parents’ anniversary.  My first cousin, Nancy, came up with the idea for the first quilt.  She and my mother’s older sister, Martha, and my mom, Nell, sent out squares of fabric to family and friends of my grandparents.  We all worked diligently to hand-embroider relevant designs or messages (or both) that would remind the happy couple of us.  Back then, it wasn’t so unusual to be asked to craft something by hand, especially when so many of those being asked had been missionaries or had at least lived abroad.  Next, Nancy, Mom, and Aunt Martha sewed them all together while Uncle Parky was charged with taking us younger kids to various amusement parks in Southern California to keep our sticky fingers out of the way.


Two years later it was my father’s parents’ 50th anniversary and my grandmother hinted that she’d like a similar quilt.  An accomplished seamstress and knitter who’d kept seven grandchildren in custom-made skating costumes and sweaters, she was obviously worthy of the challenge!  Only this time, it was just my parents putting together the quilt.  This time, my Aunt Joanna and Uncle Dan were in charge of taking our three pairs of sticky fingers off to Florida, so that my Mom could tackle the quilt construction over spring break.

And thus the tradition began.

Nearly 25 years later, in 2006, Mom and I put together a quilt for my aunt and uncle.  We’d forgotten just how enormous the task of organizing and sending the mailing of instructions and fabric squares was!  Way more work than actually making the quilt, it’s the part of the process that I’d gladly outsource if I could.  However, rather like childbirth, all that agony is quickly upstaged by the delight in receiving the clever and whimsical contributions that friends and family send in.  Also, by this time, quilting was really my passion and I wanted to up the ante by adding a Baltimore-style center medallion.  Using Elly Sienkiewicz’s Rose Lyre Wreath design (enlarged somewhat to a better scale for the quilt) I hand-appliqued a design element that turned out to be both bold and unifying – definitely something we wanted to repeat for future quilts.

Next up was my in-laws’ anniversary quilt in 2008.  Thank goodness for Mom and my husband, George, without whom I’d never have pulled this one off.  By this time I was a full-time head teacher, in addition to everything else in our busy lives.   George was not only a dab hand at the details of mailing out instruction packets, but he even taught himself how to embroider and design and executed his own beautiful square.  My mom and dad made squares for themselves and for my brother who was traveling on the other side of the planet.  Mom came and helped me assemble the quilt top, layer the batting and backing, and finally feed the quilt through the machine.   Happily, after that quilt, there was a bit of a break.


Which leads me to this year: 2014.  My parents were married on May 3, 1964.  I knew would be pretty much flying solo on this quilt.  George and the boys would be helpful, BUT George has his business and the boys are, while charming and lovable, rather less biddable teenagers.   I asked Mom to choose her fabric colors because after making all those other anniversary quilts, she should at least get to live with a quilt she likes!   I started a year and a half early with the mailing, knowing that in the intervening 30-odd years the general public’s ability to make anything by hand has declined.  Yes, this is the age of Etsy, Craftsy, Ravelry, and all things DIY, but few of that ilk are related to me.   Nonetheless, I was impressed at how many people rose to the occasion and, when necessary, found someone to guide them along their embroidering journey.

I agonized over the center medallion for so many months that I must’ve qualified for some world record in procrastination.  Convinced it was to be my magnus opus, I wanted to draft my own design AND include techniques I’d never tackled before, like ribbonwork, beading and dimensional applique AND incorporate flowers like Mountain Laurel and Gardenia that have meaning to my parents.  OY.  Finally, after many versions, I settled on some elements from a corner swag in Janice Vaine’s book, which I cut up, revised and added to until I got what I wanted.   I finished the wreath just in time to put the rest of the quilt top together and had great plans to layer and begin hand and machine quilting over spring break.

Best laid plans.  I have no pictures of what came next because I hope never to relive that particular nightmare.  For some deluded reason I cannot recall, I decided to use a batting that I’d never worked with for a bed-size quilt or for hand-quilting.  I’ve used Thermore for everything and it’s always worked beautifully.  So after two weeks of trying to wrestle the quilt into submission, I had a Total Quilting Breakdown.  Sobbing, tearing my hair, rending my clothes – OK, I exaggerate, but there was definitely much crying and drama involved.  I had to pick out ALL my machine stitch-in-the-ditch quilting and some handquilting and Start All Over Again.   I can testify that it was totally worth it and I just hope Hobbs never stops making Thermore during my lifetime.

Mom and Dad threw themselves the 50th anniversary party of their dreams on May 10, 2014 at the Water Club and they got to see their quilt for the first time that day.  It was pretty neat.

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I’m onto other quilt projects now – some new EPP and my ongoing, never-ending Dear Jane that I began in 2001 – the summer before 9/11.  George and I will have our 25th anniversary in 2017, so I suppose I’ll finish that or another quilt for our bed by then.  It’s kind of crazy that I haven’t made a quilt for our bed yet, but other quilters tell me that’s totally normal.  Right, Andrea?



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The Vermont Quilt Festival: WOW

I think this may take a few posts.

To start, the Dear Jane show was fantastic.  Brenda picked a selection of “baby Janes” that showed off the range of possibilities, with an emphasis on the traditional layout.  There were examples in modern colorways, others in monochrome, some without the triangles and/or the scalloping.   A series of mini quilts in Amish colorways from the Shipshewana retreats finished off the show.

I have to say, the Vermont Quilt Festival team is fantastic.   Mary Ellen Francis graciously juggled all our shipping drama, going above and beyond to get our quilts safely to the site.   Everywhere in the show there were helpful docents with white cotton gloves, ready to turn back the corner on quilts so as to see reverse details or read labels.  Mom and I were so impressed that we volunteered for the take-down process on Sunday afternoon.  Our crew supervisor was none other than Donna Bister, who co-authored the Plain and Fancy quilt book in which Brenda first saw a photo of the Jane Stickle quilt.

Click on the thumbnails to see them bigger:

My next post will be about some of the other exhibits at the Vermont Quilt Festival.  Now I have to go address the mess on my side of the bedroom that I promised George I’d do when I got back from the show!

You can see more photos and coverage of the VQF Dear Jane exhibit here and here and here and here.

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VQF Bound!

Today Mom and I are off to Burlington to see our Infinite Gratitude quilt on display at the Vermont Quilt Festival as part of an exhibit of “Baby Janes” – modern interpretations of Jane Stickle’s original quilt.  We can’t wait to see the other quilts in the show and, hopefully, get to meet some of their quilters.  Stay tuned for photos!

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The Quilt Life

Once again, I’m shamelessly lifting the title of this post from the topic about which I’m writing:  The Quilt Life magazine has just published an article about our quilt in their December issue!   Journalist Meg Cox, who also happens to be the president of the Quilt Alliance, interviewed me and my aunt and used several of our photos.  As you’ll remember from the previous post, Meg and I finally met at the Quilt Alliance’s event in NYC, Quilters Take Manhattan.  It’s pretty amazing and I hope you all get a chance to see a copy.  The cover of the issue looks like this:

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Quilters Take Manhattan!

Gosh, I didn’t even need to come up with a fun title for this post, because the Quilt Alliance did it for me!  Today was a great afternoon at FIT, with Meg Cox interviewing quilter Denyse Schmidt, followed by a chat with Jennifer Chiaverini, author of the Elm Creek Quilt novels.

Andrea and I met up beforehand, and were pleased to find that Diane King was already there!  Armed with tea, coffee, and goodie bags, we settled in for Meg and Denyse’s chat, a Q.S.O.S. which will be archived.  It was truly engaging, as Denyse is very eloquent in describing how her many life experiences have shaped her singular aesthetic.

Also on display were all the quilts from Denyse’s new book, which features modern quilt designs inspired by traditional motifs.  In addition, the Quilt Alliance displayed entries from its annual miniature quilt competition.

Journalist Meg Cox has written a piece on our Infinite Gratitude quilt that will appear in the December issue of The Quilt Life magazine, so it was especially fun meeting her in person!

Here are some of my personal favorites from the miniature “home” quilt entries:

To wrap up the day, our DHs joined us for a delicious dinner in Chelsea.  Off to bed, hoping to sleep late on Sunday!

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Two Can Play That Game

So you may remember that last fall Diane made me the most adorable red & white chicken pincushion, who quickly became our project mascot.  Well, I’ve been planning my return volley for some time now.  Diane and I both loved the simple-but-perfect red and white “wave” quilt in the Infinite Variety Show:

We joked that it would be so easy to make it as a miniature: all you’d need is a few yards of red rickrack!   So when I found out that Diane’s birthday was coming up in July, I thought I’d test our theory.  City Quilter has some terrific giant rickrack, and the result was this wacky red and white “mug rug”:

I used MM Couture Cotton and Thermore and put a piece of our Infinite Gratitude alphabet print on the back.  A dash of handquilting and it was all done!  To be fair, it’s all about proportion:  the rickrack didn’t have exactly the same curve as the wave in the large quilt, so it’s wasn’t possible to fit it in a rectangle with the same number of rows.

Happy Birthday, Diane!

Update: Now that’s she’s received it, Diane says it is NOT a mug rug, or at least she won’t be using it as one.  Something about making a wall of miniature quilts in her new apartment.   Gosh, this presents even more possibilities.  Could this become a grand new obsession?  Quilts even tinier, fussier, and more semper tedium than Dear Jane?  Hmmmm….

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Somers: You should’ve been there…

Last Thursday, my aunt called to ask if Mom and I wanted to go with her and my uncle to the quilt show in Somers.  So, throwing the mountain of What I Really Should Be Doing aside, I happily took off with them.  What a lovely day!  The Northern Star Quilt Guild put on a gorgeous show and this year they’d put together a focus exhibit of small-scale and bed-size red and white quilts inspired by the Infinite Variety show.

As usual, on family outings, my job was Photo Girl.  I attempted to take a picture of each quilt in the red and white show, although I probably missed one or two:


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The Big Day

So yesterday, on Saturday, thirteen of us gathered at my house at 3:30 for one last look before the big reveal.  We folded it and put it in the bedroom so as to have a chance to tell the story before unveiling it.

My aunt and uncle joined us at 4:00, along with my parents and immediate family.  We all watched a slideshow of highlights from Infinite Variety, the show that started it all.

When it was finished, we told them that our thought process went something like “So what can you make for someone who has 650 different red and white quilts?” and that we, as quilters, knew of a quilt design that definitely was NOT in the show:  A Dear Jane quilt.  Judy and Diane gave a quick recap of the Jane Stickle quilt’s history, and Brenda’s creation of the book, and how it has become something of a cult project in quilting today.   Before unfolding the quilt, we showed them the label, explaining that 35 of us had contributed and how we’d managed to keep it a surprise these past 9 months.

It became apparent, after a few minutes, that they hadn’t really understood that we were giving it to them.  For keeps.   We said again, yes, we made this for you.  They thanked us over and over, but we just kept saying we made the quilt to thank them.  We said that, for our part, we get to keep the experience and memories of having done it together.

My brother took group pictures and then we all sat and talked for quite a while, my aunt telling stories about everything from quilts to the time she gave my father a really “memorable” haircut when they were little.

I wish each and every one of you could have been there, but you were all with us in our hearts.  Working with all of you has meant so much, and has been such tremendous fun!

It’s been an exciting nine months (a childbirth analogy is entirely appropriate) and even though the quilt is finished and given, it seems the story is just beginning!  Lots of fun to come and please remember: we couldn’t have done it without each and every one of you.   As my second graders say, “Thank you times googleplex!”

xoxoxo always, Deborah

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So, this afternoon we presented our quilt.  It was exciting and fulfilling and everything we could have hoped for.  That said, everyone chez nous is exhausted, so will post pictures tomorrow and hope you all have a good night’s sleep.

xoxo always,


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Halfway round…

Binding should be finished before dinner.

Quilting tomorrow from 12 to 5 at my place.  Emailed details last night.


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