Sunday, August 16, 2020

Use It Or Lose It: Small Quilts

Use 'em or lose 'em.

After a year spent intentional decluttering a garage fairly bursting with lovely things, I've concluded that just liking something could no longer serve as an adequate filter for what I can keep and what to let go. 

If I like something enough to keep it, then I need to find a way to use it.

Which makes sense and seems like a reasonable strategy but man, is it every difficult to do.

Take my collection of small quilts.

Most of these gems adorned the walls of my home during the countrified 80s and 90s. All were handmade by me or my mom, or better yet, both of us. 

And there is no way in heaven or earth that I'm going to get rid of a single one. 

Well. I'll gladly pass them off to a daughter. But right now, none of them are expressing an urgent need for mini quilts. 

So keep them I shall.

Someday, when my baby birds have all vacated this nest and the secondary bedrooms fall under my purview, I plan to fold them all with deliberate care and matching dimensions, and then layer them into an old pine cupboard (that I'm also keeping for this express purpose). And when my future grandchildren come over and find themselves in need of a nap or a snuggle session, they will be invited to run to the cupboard and pick out a little quilt to use. 

I can't wait for that. 

But in the meantime, what am I going to do with them?

That's a good question. So far, I've washed them all out and hung them to dry in the summer sun. As I pegged them to the clothesline yesterday, I found myself awash in sweet memories of my life with these precious gems.

^ My passion for quilts sprang from the old school Amish quilts that married strong geometric form to solid color fabrics. This model is a perfect example. It lived in my mind's eye for several years before I finally made it during countless late-night sewing sessions while my husband snored in front of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Once completed, it hung on the wall over the couch in our family room for many years, and my daughters have fond memories of running their arms behind it and even lifting it over their heads as they stood on the couch beneath it. Oh, the joys of being a toddler.

^Using the same diagonal blocks to a different effect, my mom made this tiny little quilt for my daughters to use with their dolls. She put to good use odds and ends of fabrics left over from other projects and created this darling color story which is just perfect for a teddy bear tea party. Now that I think of it, I remember that, clever grandma that she was, she actually gave us two of these lovelies, making it much easier for four little girls to share them. I'll have to track down the other and reunite them.

^ By the 1990s, handmade quilting had gone mainstream and America's Main Streets were full of quilt shops and hundreds of clever patterns for piecing elaborate shapes. My mom really got into this trend, as evidenced by these precious angels (and several other recognizable flora and fauna shown below.) I especially love the border of square bits and even though one of the dark red fabrics bled into the white background, I/m glad to have this in my Christmas repertoire.

^  This baby doll quilt began its life as a hanging in my bedroom, tying together the colors of several other quilts in the room. I was particularly fond of homespun plaid fabrics, of which this quilt features several, and the most delicate and simple of floral designs. I remember creating it almost as a sampler of my favorite fabrics, and it served my eye as fine art. Later in its life, we took the tiny thing down and wrapped it around a pile of chilly Beanie Babies, so it served humanitarian purposes as well.

^ I designed this quilt and my mom brought my vision to life. This was a nature division of labor for us and the secret sauce of our successful quilting partnership - I had way more ideas that I did time, and my mom was a mindbogglingly precise quilt-making machine. This classic basket pattern done up in my favorite colors of the day hung above my bed for many years, and honestly, I'm thinking that I wouldn't hate having it hang there again.

^ Another Shaker-inspired solid-color classic, this might be my favorite mini quilt of all time. I made this one by myself from start to finish, and it turned out just as I imagined it, with one slight oversight: I never got around to quilting the four navy rectangles. Ahh, the years of torment I suffered, feeling like a failure or at least a lazy bones because I went ahead and hung this unfinished piece in my living room and left it that way for years. Now I take pride on how much I was able to accomplish with so many little ones on hand, and smile at my wildly unrealistic expectations of myself.

^ A holiday piece that I did all by myself, this is probably the most technically proficient of the collection. The trees are outlined with a simple design, but the red areas are richly quilted in swirling designs and I love to run my hand over the fabric and feel the rich texture of the stitches. Too bad the dyes in one of the red fabrics bled onto the white; even though I always prewashed my fabrics, this tragedy occurs from time to time in the life of a quilter, and now I find it almost charming.

^ When my first-born moved to her big girl room, my mom offered to make her this jumping bunny quilt to hang over the bed. I green-lighted that plan in a snap, partly because I loved the overall vibe but, very practically, because this helped the set of perfectly fine tan sheets that we had on hand for her bed make a lot more sense for a toddler. The sheets weren't brown; they were bunny-colored! I have fond memories of my daughter doing her best running rabbit impersonations as we were "winding down" for bedtime. With my little delayed sleep phasers, bed time was always a bit more energetic than I'd imagined it would be.

^ The geese quilt. Another one of my mom's tried and true patterns; I think she made a version of this mini quilt for everyone in the family. She gave me the one with the red background and green borders; I used it for Christmas. Eventually, I added her own model - blue background with red borders - to my collection and they make an adorable pair.

^ Last in this collection but certainly not least, this is the hanging I made all by myself for my firstborn's nursery. Even though it was very much in keeping with the times to find out the gender of your unborn child, I was a purist and preserved for myself the surprise of my baby's gender until birth, and thusly created what we now call a gender neutral nursery. Back then, I just went with the colors I liked, and this is what came out of my head. I love this quilt, and feel the happy rush of those long ago days just by holding this quilt in my hands. 

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Use 'em or lose 'em. 

Those words keep ricocheting around my brain as I sort through my little quilts and think of how much they mean to me and wonder if there isn't some way I might put them to use right now. 

Hanging quilts are not so much my jam anymore. But I'll keep pondering the possibilities. 

And I promise that I will never let these sweet quilts go. 

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More stories about my Use It Or Lose It adventures:

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