“Here,” my mother said, handing me a quilt top pieced together in little squares. “I can’t get this to come out right no matter how I try.”
I was not surprised. Somehow the idea of careful measuring and consistent seam allowances usually escaped her, especially as she grew older. Consequently the pieced quilt top she had just handed me was narrow at one end and sort of flared at the other. In other words, it had gone “wonky,” as they say in quilting circles.
I took it home, and busy with raising the family, 13 years went by. And then one day while going through my stash of quilting materials, I looked again at the wonky quilt top. The time had come. Taking out my seam ripper, I dismantled the entire quilt top, one patch at a time, until I had all 450 squares separated out. (Well, a few were squares, most were not!) That’s when the memories came flooding back, not only of Mom, but of her two sisters, bumbling, funny Aunt Nellie, and poised, quiet Aunt Emmie. By now they had all passed away, but included in the quilt top were patches from dresses I remembered all three of them wearing.
Short, chubby Aunt Nellie liked polka dots, and while they may have done little for her figure, they were in keeping with her clown-like personality. She could find humour in any situation, but especially in those dilemmas she was instrumental in creating, and there were many. If she wasn’t laughing at herself, she was poking fun at her tall, lanky husband, Uncle Jack, her sidekick in comedy. And here in the wonky quilt beside polka dot patches were pieces of blue plaid like the shirts he used to wear.
And then there was Aunt Emmie, who loved autumn shades of tan and orange and brown, but she also favoured black and white prints, and stripes, and yes, here were remnants of all three. As I fingered them I recalled her soft-brown eyes, her gentle voice and her welcoming manner as she greeted me at the door of her big farmhouse where I would spend a few days of my summer vacation each year.
Unlike her sister, my mother detested any shade of brown or gold. Her choice was anything blue — ginghams, geometrics, paisleys, but especially floral designs, the brighter the better. The wonky quilt contained more than its share of bold colours, all interspersed with soft pastels and wild prints. As I pressed and squared each one, I toyed with ideas of how to reassemble the patches. I decided to add some pieces from my own stash, scraps from garments I had sewn for both my daughter and myself. I separated the various-size squares with plain brown sashing representing the tastes of the three generations of women reflected in the quilt.
Despite our different tastes, the quilt is a constant reminder that we are all tied together as family.