We put a quilt on the frame and baste it to the batting and the back fabric. It lies there colorful, beautiful and flat….very very flat. And then we begin to quilt and all at once it is possible to see more and it becomes even more beautiful. The quilt begins to gain more dimensions, designs appear that weren’t there before. And of course one never really knows – at least I don’t – what those designs will look like until they are sewn. We draw in some of the designs using a template and again – at that point its all still flat. But once the designs are quilted then they gain character. I wish I had taken some close up shots to demonstrate this but of course I didn’t. I was too busy quilting and then when I thought to take a photo I was struck by how many of us were working on this one quilt. Yes, there was a second frame set up but we all were putting our efforts on this particular day into this one that Bonnie made. It will require a lot of quilting but it will surely be worth it. And how many stitches – on my goodness. I can’t even begin to imagine.
Because I heard that Ray was going to be celebrating his 80th birthday this spring, I started thinking about transitions. There is the one that these quilts go through from being a flat expanse of fabrics to an object that shows depth and character as it is quilted. And I suppose in many ways life is the same. There we are as infants cute and cuddly but our character is slowly built over time. We transition as we are shaped by experiences and relationships and the daily weather of life. We each begin to show more depth and individual intricacies. We gain character. There are dimensions we have at 80 that we never had as a child. Yes the potential was there with the hopes and design but over time with various influences and perhaps even the assistance of a template or two, the emerging effect can be beyond anything that was imagined at the beginning.
We have reached that midwinter lull when the holidays are behind us and the days are still too short, the nights still too long. Snow and ice are everywhere in this part of Montana so I worry about people slipping. Lynda’s wrist is finally healed although she hasn’t gotten back to quilting a lot yet. Bev’s husband, John, was in the hospital for a piece and than last week we missed Bonnie because she was laid up. There’s something about winter that just makes everyone seem more vulnerable. And yet even as we tread carefully through the snow to get to the old school house, once there everyone settles into laughter and stories, drinking Joan’s coffee and nibbling the shortbread cookies she brought us. We finished up one quilt and are putting another one on next week. The beautiful one with tropical colors is still the one that I enjoy working on at the moment. It gives a sense of warmth and sun during this winter season.
The hot coffee and cookies are a treat as is the quilt with its shades of oranges and reds but as always its the people that draw me to the school house on Fridays. Judy showing us the lovely miniature quilts that she made. Carmen bringing homemade tamales to share. Lynda trading a knitting pattern for a hat. Cathryn giving me a bag of books for my dreamed of used bookstore. The relationships. That’s the magic of Fridays in the Historical Village. Visitors stop by to drop something off or to ask about getting a quilt done and they are all warmly welcomed. Or a tourist might come in even during this time of year to see what’s going on and we take turns explaining how we quilt to raise the money to maintain the Village. And when the guests all leave and we settle back around the quilting frames, that’s the time when we listen to each other, tell about a woe or a challenge or some funny story about the grandbaby. That’s the magic.
It has been too long. There was summer and there were guests and vegetable gardens and events like a big concert and the weekly farmers market and Shakespeare in the Park. The Historical Village volunteers had their annual summer picnic and as it was threatening to rain that afternoon, we ate in the old school house. The first Friday after Labor Day the quilters showed up to transform the school house from a museum into space for a rummage sale. And the next Friday the sale happened and the third Friday we started quilting again. The quilt we set up is a lovely one that Irene brought in. It belongs to a friend of hers. The friend’s grandmother gave her the top as a high school graduation present years and years ago. We figured it might be seventy some years old by now. Wonderful fabrics and a design that doesn’t get tiring.
The first week that we worked on it happened to be a school holiday – actually a PIR day whatever that means. So a young Czech girl, Bara, who is living in the valley this semester came to quilting with me. A pleasure to see her take it seriously as Cathryn explained how to make the stitches. Soon they were both sewing and I smiled at how easily the skills were passed along. I doubt if the girl will remember this exact moment later in life but it seems like a significant one to me. Sitting next to Cathryn who has so much grace and wisdom, learning a skill that has been handed down for generations. Cathryn had the patience and the humor to teach Bara, gently helping her to thread the needle and make knots that didn’t pull through the fabric. And Bara trying her best to take small stitches and not be distracted as the other quilters told stories and caught up with each other after the summer.
Its good to be back. I am glad to be with these women around the quilting frame again. And I am glad that we have the occasional young person who sews with us.
Things are moving quickly towards the end of the quilting season and the beginning of summer. We finished up the beautiful log cabin quilt that Cathryn had pieced. We even tied another quilt. And by this last Saturday which was Rendezvous and the Board of History Book Sale – there was nary a quilt in sight except the lovely one we are raffling off. People came into the old school house out of the rain to buy used books (and to warm up). Those of us working mostly sat around talking and occasionally making the piles of books for sale look more tidy. Darris Flanagan came by with copies of his new book about Trego. We’ve all been waiting to get a copy as we heard from Joan it might just be the best of all the books Darris has written so far.
For me, I was basking in the wonder of these women who seem to get things done at such an amazing rate. Lynda was sorting out all kinds of Village paperwork before taking off to visit family for a few weeks. Cathryn made posters to advertise our Rummage Sale on May 16th. Bev is putting the ad in the paper about the sale. Cathy keeps the money we take in from events and donations sorted out. Having just returned from a trip, I was appreciative of all they give as volunteers to the Historical Village and how much they accomplish in a day. While traveling recently I had spoken with some people in their 60s and 70s who seemed to think their best years were behind them and that sitting in front of a television was enough activity for them on any given day. So it was an important reminder to me that there is always something in us left to give, that each of us can certainly find a way we can personally enhance our community, and that if we put our mind to it – we can improve with age. Aging doesn’t necessarily make us better but it can if we try. And with these women as my models, I am definitely going to try.