Quilts have a remarkable capability to provide more than warmth — they can wrap you up in love, support, comfort, solidarity, color, texture, hearts and your favorite fabrics. So, when we heard that the son of one of our favorite sewing buddies was diagnosed with cancer, we knew we needed to spring in to action — just didn’t know which way to jump.
Soon after hearing about the severity of the situation, several of us were at Elfriede’s, serendipitously, at the same time. (This is not an unusual coincidence…we spend a lot of time there!) We were in serious danger of slipping into a deep funk when Wendy told us, with her usual panache and confidence, that The Young Son was going to be OK. That it would be a hard year, but that he’s going to be OK. And that it was our responsibility to hold ONLY that thought in our hearts and to support Our Dear Friend every step of the way. Right. OK. Deep breath. Let’s do that!
Lauren jumped up and said, “Let’s make her a comfort quilt!” The thought lifted our spirits immediately! We started brainstorming and a heart theme came forward. We were in agreement, Our Dear Friend offers such an open and loving heart to all of her friends, we needed to mirror that back to her, with all of our love. Nevermind that not one of us is a cutesy-heartsy type person! Lauren went online and found a great pattern that showed a log-cabin-style heart that was really cool, utilizing a twist on the traditional log cabin quilting pattern. When Wanda suggested that we use Liberty of London cottons, we knew we had a winner. Liberties just happen to be one of our favorite fabrics, but more importantly, a big favorite of Our Dear Friend. They provide just the right touch of softness, strength, quality and color. With the traditional log cabin, we had all the elements that we were looking for.
Just then, Elfriede started frantically digging into an inner cabinet — we weren’t sure why! Then, she came up with a big bag — holding a remarkable stash of Liberty cottons and told us to dig in! Wow! We were on a roll. Needless to say, the rest of us were twitching with enthusiasm and couldn’t wait to get home to dive into our own stashes of Liberties! We made a time to meet again soon, so that we could share fabrics and make a plan!
By the time we met up again, we had a pattern written up, a sample heart already sewn and a plan (sorta) in place. We started tearing up our precious stashes of Liberty cottons! Really? Excuse me? These are stashes that have taken a life time to gather and we are tearing them up? YES! According to the infamous comedian P.J. O’Rourke, you can take ten percent off the top of anything — he calls that his Circumcision Rule. He was talking about government budgets, but nevermind that. We tore two inch strips off each of the pieces and started to share. It was such fun to see what fabrics we had in common, what fabrics we had missed out on, what fabrics we loved but, seriously, could never imagine wearing! Since Liberty cottons all play well together, we knew we couldn’t make an ugly heart!
Well, after that lovely therapy session of ripping two inch strips of fabric, we had piles of strips. We had a lovely palette of over fifty Liberties to choose from, many with little animals! (This was a great bonus, since Our Dear Friend is a veterinarian, so animals can provide great strength for her. Besides, we all love animal prints!) But we needed something to keep our hearts similar enough so that they could cohabitate in one quilt. Wanda came up with two gorgeous blue Liberty prints from her stash that she had decided were not appropriate for her to be wearing. Sigh. A moment of quiet in awe of someone who is willing and able to let go of TWO pieces of Liberty, each measuring more than two yards. Oddly enough, these two pieces were EXACTLY what we needed to border the hearts and to border the quilt. And, in EXACTLY the right amounts. Amazed at how serendipity continued to move this quilt along, we began to wonder about the background fabric when Wendy felt a strong pull and went over to the collection of Italian cottons. She grabbed out a lovely, soft, delicate light blue Italian cotton with ponies woven into it! Perfect! And, even more perfect when Elfriede told us that she would donate those six yards to the effort!
We were ready to sew! Well, almost ready. We still needed to count noses and to count hearts. How many people were going to be sewing? How big was our quilt going to be? How would we get the word out? How could we possibly coordinate the effort? We guessed that we’d have six people sewing hearts and if we each sewed five hearts, we’d have enough to make a queen sized quilt. Wanda, experienced in this sort of thing, quietly mentioned that making a queen sized quilt was a big project, that getting it quilted would be problematic, that we might never get it finished! Lauren, our only other experienced quilter, agreed. OK then. Let’s see. To make a queen sized quilt in a short period of time would take a miracle. Great! Isn’t that what we want? Several miracles are needed here, so let’s go for it! Let’s never give in to practical thinking, statistics on survival rates, or The Real World! We’re making a quilt big enough to hold Our Dear Friend, her husband, her two (big) dogs and The Young Son, all wrapped up at once!
What we weren’t ready for was how much fun it was going to be, how addictive the hearts were to make and how many people we had to help. People who had never sewn before made hearts. People who had never quilted before made hearts. People couldn’t stop making hearts. Even people who didn’t want to come near a sewing machine donated money for a delightfully light silk batting.
We lit candles, we thought positive, healing thoughts and we sewed hearts. We procrastinated on our careers, we carved time out of late nights and evenings and we sewed hearts. We sent each other texts and photos and laughs and love and we sewed hearts. We came closer together as a group as we sewed hearts. We did everything except share this wonderful process with Our Dear Friend. It began to feel selfish not to share with her! She knew we were up to something, but we all kept our lips sealed. With this chatty group, that was perhaps our biggest accomplishment!
It was time to pull it together. Were all of our hearts finished yet? No, of course not. No matter! I pushed two of my big tables together and invited Lisa to do her magic. As a true artist, Lisa had selected colorways for all my hearts and now was going to put our hearts into proper order. Wanda’s red heart had to be the centerpiece, of course. We worked out from there, leaving a few holes for hearts not yet completed. It was more gorgeous than we had envisioned. We were delighted. But, we needed a border. And, we needed to get our Liberties back from Wendy. She was unable to stop making hearts! So, at our next meeting, with a brilliant suggestion from Wendy & Lauren, we set Wendy to work on making the borders for us. Miles and miles of borders — all of our left over 2 inch strips in lovely combinations, all sewn together as the glorious culmination of our efforts. We called a meeting to decide our backing (another beautiful Italian cotton in one of Our Dear Friend’s favorite designs) and our corner-border pieces (a Liberty cotton with HEARTS, of course!) and then we were ready to quilt. We gave ourselves a big pat on the back for closing our last meeting, folding up the quilt and fabrics and removing all traces — about five minutes before Our Dear Friend just happened to walk in the door of Elfriede’s and ALMOST caught us in action!
Carole, Mary & Patty came over to help make the sandwich and pin it all together, in preparation for the quilting. We had only one heart missing — from our Alaska friend, Page, who had just purchased a new plane and was off on adventures when our request came in for people to sew hearts. No matter, I left one blank heart in the upper corner and figured that I could applique her heart in when it arrived. After all of the love and emotion put into this quilt, I still wasn’t prepared for the beauty of her heart, when it came in the mail. She had dressed it up in the only Liberty in her stash — the gorgeous cranberry. And, she sewed in beads in the shape of the Big Dipper & the North Star. What a stunning contribution. It deserved its place of honor in the upper corner, where Our Dear Friend can trace the stars with her fingers when needing some special comfort from her quilt.
Wanda created a signature heart block for the back of the quilt before she left on vacation. And, I started quilting. I have to say, a queen sized quilt is very large. It has the outlines of the hearts and lots of totem animals quilted in. It has candles and bears and dogs and cats and birds and horses and more hearts. It was great fun to quilt, although I have to say, a queen sized quilt is very large.
We presented the comfort quilt to Our Dear Friend in just a little over a month after we started it. She has been curled up in it every day since. She knows that we stand with her, no matter what. She is not alone. We all know for sure that her Young Son will be OK.
Anyone who would like the pattern for this quilt is welcome to a free download at http://www.ElfriedesFineFabrics.com. Go to Sewing Secrets and look for the download for the Comfort Quilt.
Anyone who would like to light a candle and send good thoughts to Our Dear Friend and her young son is welcome and encouraged to do so.