Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Austin's quilt, or how I documented a memory
In the year 2000, after living in the same community for 45 years, I pulled up my roots and moved east to settle here near Pittsburgh with my new spouse, George. I left behind many fine friends and fine memories, a long standing job, a home I had lived in and loved and raised my daughters in for 21 years and a yard full of hostas of which I was very proud! One of the people I missed most upon leaving was my best friend of 18 years, Maryell. A year after I left the Quad Cities, she also split town to live with her daughter's family in Temecula, California. Her daughter Sarah had just had her first child, Austin. I promised right then and there to make Austin a baby quilt and this is its story.
I thought I would make a Three Bears quilt for Austin and I wanted to incorporate pictures of his parents as children as well as pictures of Austin himself. So Maryell sent me the pictures I needed and they proceeded to sit in my attic for almost 8 years withouth resulting in a quilt. Sarah then had a daughter, Isabella, and of course, she was going to get a quilt too. Maryell, to her everlasting credit, never mentioned the missing baby quilts as the kids grew out of babyhood and became little people, now 8 and 6 years old.
This past August 2009, I said to my husband one night as we were sitting on our porch enjoying the summer evening, "I think it is time I did the quilts for Maryell's grandkids." I had just finished a school quilt with my daughter, Becky, and was ready to start another project from THE LIST. Since Austin and Bella had been on THE LIST longest (except for my sister Bev who has been on it for her second quilt since 1994), it seemed right that I start their quilts. I decided I would do Austin's first since he was the oldest.
The Three Bears idea was definitely not Austin now. The last I had seen Austin, he was a very bright and curious 3 or 4 year old. This was in March 2005. George and I and my daughters were out in California for the wedding of my nephew, Brian. We met up with Maryell, Austin, and Bella at the Mission of San Juan Capistrano and spent the day catching up with each other. My mom and her husband Jim also joined us. If you have not been there, plan a trip. It is located squarely in town but is like an oasis away from all things modern. The beautiful mission buildings are still standing, beautifully shrouded by hanging wisteria. The old church is peaceful and serene and there is a gorgeous fish pond in the center of the mission, filled with huge koi fish. Well, Austin was fascinated with the koi and we all had to work to keep him out of the pond!
Inspiration struck! Austin was going to get a fish quilt.
The pattern of the block used, Bear Paw, is a traditional pattern with a new twist for Austin's quilt. I had been reading a book by Kaffe Fassatt, a fabric designer who encouraged quilt artists to take traditional patterns and push them in new directions, using his bright fabrics and jamming the blocks all together for a incredibly dense color explosion. I used Michael Miller and Laurel Burch fish prints rather than Kaffe's but I think I acheived the intended KA-BOOM effect. See what you think!
The quilting is both stitch in the ditch and some free form geometrics. Dimension of this quilt are about 65 x 72 inches and it has over 70 fish buttons sewn on it. Thanks to my daughters in Dallas and San Francisco for searching out all the fish buttons there were to find. I had decimated the supply here around Greensburg!
On the reverse side is my signature and date, as usual.
Around the photograph of Austin at the koi pond, I monogrammed "The Boy who loved the Koi." Above that photo is his name.
The second photo shows the entire group who visited the Mission that beautiful spring day in San Juan Capistrano: My husband George holding Austin, Sarah, Becky, Jamie, my mom Ramona, her husband Jim, me holding Bella, and my very best friend, Maryell. What a wonderful memory and for me, a personal best in quilting.