It is March and yes, the Hawaiian fabric quilt is so close to being finished that we can taste it. When that quilt was rolled in so much it was hard to get more than a few women sewing on it, we set up another one that Cathryn pieced and some of the women worked on that getting it tied. It is lovely with just enough different fabrics to make it interesting and yet those vintage squares are bordered with white so it gives one a sense of light. We just about got that finished when Sally brought in squares for a quilt she is piecing. She wanted our opinions (brave woman!) and to lay it out. So we put a sheet on top of Cathryn’s quilt and began to play with the squares. Lots of laughter and pointing and rearranging and total agreement that it was going to be a beautiful one when finished. I am sure Sally’s skills as an artist help her select colors and fabrics pleasing to every eye.
So here we are in March and moving right along with the quilts. The weather still prevents a few of our regular quilters from joining us. Just too much snow and ice out in the parking lot and on the trail to the old school house. But the snow is slowly turning to mud and the sun coming through the school house windows reassures us spring is on the way. That helps but then with thoughts of spring come thoughts of summer and what that means. One of the old buildings here needs to be re-roofed. The grounds at the Historical Village need to be maintained which requires hiring someone. Lynda starts making lists of all that needs to happen before the summer season starts. Each item requires volunteer efforts or hiring professionals. Our Christmas bazaar went well and we will have another sale over Rendezvous weekend (April 28-29) and then one in May. It requires selling quite a number of used books and lovely handmade potholders to pay for a roof or to have the restrooms serviced. Perhaps one of these lovely quilts will sell.
There are days when it is hard to put this in perspective. Politicians, billionaires, and Congress talking about millions there and more millions over there. Here in the Tobacco Valley I think of families who struggle to pay utility bills, individuals who don’t have gas money to drive to the doctor’s, men sitting home out of work. The Historical Village is in a county that certainly has its share of hardships. But there are these women making quilts to sell, piecing lovely fabric, making lists for summer chores.
Despite the mounds of snow currently in the Tobacco Valley, we are inching towards spring. Days are getting longer. The sun, when it is out, seems warmer even when it is bouncing off the snow. There is even that sense that below the snow, small green shoots are getting themselves ready. Before you know it, in just a few months, we will see crocus coming up and the lilacs in the Historical Village will be putting out buds.
We are still working on the Hawaiian fabric quilt that Joan pieced. Yes, it isn’t the easiest fabric to quilt and all the women are quick to point that out. At the same time, there are the bright colors and we are doing some lovely designs on it. The border has leaves that remind us of February hearts. At least that is what I think when I sit there appreciating the quilt and the quilters. Lynda pointed out to a visitor last week that some women can quilt and talk, while other can only do one or the other – not both at the same time. I am one of those who can quilt or talk. Actually even listening to a good story or some interesting idea requires me to pause in my sewing. Cathryn on the other hand can easily quilt, talk and listen, managing to do all three very well. I like to think it is a skill that comes with age.
Most of the quilters here are in their eighties. A few are in the nineties and some others in their seventies, but eighties is our average. This is probably one of the criteria that makes this group so special. All those accumulated years of experiences, wisdom, taking care of babies and family, work, travel, love and hard knocks…so many things that polish a life, creating that wonderful patina. And when the women are quilting together on these wintry mornings, there is a glow that comes from their conversations as well as their silences.
The visitor Lynda spoke with was encouraged to try quilting with us as she waited in the old school house for her car to be fixed. She said holding a needle would probably give her hives and we laughed at that one. And then different women started telling how they began to hand quilt, the wheres and the whys. All those threads that brought the group together here in Eureka, Montana, sitting around the quilting frame stitching hearts during a frosty February.
Warmth. Isn’t that what quilts are mostly about? Of course there are summer ones or those incredible intricately constructed one that individuals hang on walls or keep in boxes, but for the most part we have quilts to use, to keep us and those whom we love warm. So yes, the warmth factor. Yet some patterns and colors seem to increase the warmth factor exponentially. Like the one we are working on now. We believe Judy brought the fabric from Hawaii (Judy is out with a bad wrist so we couldn’t ask). Joan pieced it. The quilting design along the edge is a new one that we haven’t sewn before.
Some would say though that the fabric is a bit of challenge to sew. Actually a lot of the women say this, even Bonnie who tends never to complain. At the same time I appreciate the strong colors when everything outside is white or a pale shade of gray. It is winter in Montana after all. The mountains are white, the fields are white, even most roads are white. The sky here in the Tobacco Valley is often overcast. Thus to walk into the old school house out of the whiteness on Fridays and see this beautiful tropical design is a treat. It reminds me my eyes are still working, that there are places where flowers bloom and where people sit in light cotton clothes, where the smell isn’t one of cold crystallized air, but soft scents of verdant vegetation and the sea.
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” This is a useful concept to have on many occasions whether it is quilting Hawaiian fabric during a Montana winter or deciding how to go productively into 2017. We can be upset with the way the fabric grabs the needle but we can appreciate the colors and design of this quilt, doing our best to sew well. We can look at the world around us wondering how any progress will be made and yet still keep focused on our efforts in the community, with our families and friends, and with strangers we meet along the way.