My Log Cabin in Alaska

Monday, July 20, 2015

How Mama built a quilt - and a family.

When I was little, I used to sit on my mother's lap while she sewed. Sometimes she made dresses for me, sometimes she repaired other clothing. But once in a while she would make a quilt. That was fun.

The first one I remember was something of a crazy quilt. We started it when I was eight years old. My mother never threw away fabric remnants from any of her sewing projects, and I can tell you - that box of scraps was huge. One day she just announced that we - she and I - were going to make something out of that mess.

First step, make a worse mess! She dumped the box, (did I say it was big?) on her bed and spread it out. It wasn't long before that mess got all over the floor. I was in heaven.

Second step, find two pieces, different colors, which we could stitch together. I dug and compared and stacked and dug some more. And I got really frustrated. I couldn't find any two scraps that I could fit together. How was mama going to actually sew them? Answer - of course, the scissors!

We started with a red scrap from the material she made my sundress from, and a blue scrap from my brother's pajamas. She put them face to face and trimmed one side. I helped her pin them together, it was my job while I sat on her lap, and she sewed them together. When she held it up, it looked a little bit like a lopsided triangle with the tip broken off. Our quilt was begun.

I got the idea quick. Find the next piece by the time mama had the last one sewn on. The pile of scraps was getting a little smaller, but the pile of really little scraps at mama's feet was getting bigger. Now I had three jobs. Help pin, find the next scrap, and pick up the little scraps off the floor and put them in the waste basket. That last part bothered me. What if we could use some of those. Mama assured me they were done. I still didn't like it.

It seemed like only a few minutes, but it was hours. Daddy came home from work and it was supper time. But first we had to gather the mess of scraps and put them back in the box. Then she spread the quilt top on her bed. It was about half done, but it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. But I was still worried about those little tiny scraps in the trash. Mama called me to wash my hands and come help her set the table, but before I did, I grabbed that trash can and hid it in my closet! After supper, while I was getting ready for bed, I carefully dug out all those beautiful little scraps and stuffed them into my pillowcase. I never slept better in my life.

It only took mama and me a couple of days to make the quilt big enough to cover her bed. Now we needed to make it into a blanket. But it was so beautiful just like it was! She explained to me that we would sew it onto an old blanket and then we'd have a new, warm cover. And it would be finished. I thought we would finish it the next day. But mama was busy making phone calls and talking to a lady who came to visit.

I thought we would finish it the day after, but mama was excited about something and she was too busy to work on our beautiful blanket. It was the same the day after. I was sad, but I still had my pillowcase full of tiny scraps.

Then one day mama said we were going to move into a bigger house. It was a brick house with a big back yard and a real big tree. Our new house also had two cherry trees and an apricot tree, and mama said we would plant a garden in the spring. But the biggest surprise was yet to come.

We drove a long, long way and visited with a man and a shy little boy. At first the little boy was afraid of us, so we had to go home and come back another day to visit. Then one day he came to live with us.

I finally had a little brother! I was so happy. His name is Calvin.

But mama seemed to have forgotten all about our quilt.

Calvin was only three years old, and he was still really scared. He didn't have very many toys, so I shared mine with him. He liked my Tonka Truck better than the Barbie dolls. But he would still cry at night.

Mama finally remembered our quilt. She cut a piece from an old blanket which was just the right size for Calvin's bed. Then she sewed our quilt to both sides of the little blanket. Calvin got to sit on mama's lap while she sewed. I stood right beside her and held the heavy side of the quilt off the floor. Mama kept explaining to Calvin that this would be his very own special blanket that would keep him safe and warm at night.

When mama was finished sewing the quilt together, she had some material left over. I remembered my pillowcase full of tiny scraps. I told her we could make a little pillow to match the quilt. It wasn't quite the right shape for a pillow, but it was just the right size. Calvin hugged his little pillow and that night he went to sleep without crying.

The very next morning he woke up laughing and talking to himself. I snuck into his room, and he was playing with all the different colors of his little crazy quilt. Calvin was finally happy with his new family.

Every time I build a quilt, I remember that first crazy quilt. And I hope the person who will get the next quilt will love it as much as Calvin loved his.

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