Grandma’s Quilt: A Pattern for Joy

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Grandmother's String Quilt.

Grandmother’s String Quilt. Read More About This Quilt.

How many levels of joy are there when it comes to quilting?

The thrill of hunting fabric, choosing and designing the pattern, the sound of sheers and rotaries slashing, the bloom of pieces as you sew them together . . .

Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever met a sour quilter.  Once I attended a conference for doulas and in the conference hall next to ours was the American Quilter’s Society (AQS) show with vendors.  I’ve never seen a more jolly and happy group of women come out of a building. Those girls had surrounded themselves with fabric, color, design and gadgets.

Yet there is another dimension of joy that can be found in the quilting experience.  That joy has to do with the connections we make with our quilting sisters, either by blood or kindred spirit.

Elaine Marshall describes an experience with her generational maternal line and quilting:

“I recently retrieved from my departed mother’s unfinished projects a quilt top pieced by her mother with some scraps from my great-grandmother nearly 70 years ago.  My mother had said it was not worth finishing.  It was not straight and had been pieced with mismatched scraps.

But, drawn by nostalgia and a need for comfort, I decided to finish Grandma’s imperfect quilt. . . I knew it needed to be hand quilted.  So I spent hours and days quilting . . .

The more I quilted, the more I noticed its flaws. . . as I continued, I felt comfort in the old seersucker fabrics. . . As I stitched I returned with longing to my mothers.  I wanted to be what they would have liked me to become. . . I wanted to continue this small work that my foremothers had started. . .

We are reminded . . . to ‘continue your journey and let your hearts rejoice;  for behold, and lo, I am with you even unto the end’ (D&C 100:12).  This short passage represents one of the most efficient statements of . . . three profound principles:

  1.  To continue – to just keep going.
  2. To rejoice in that continuing.
  3. The Lord is with us now, always, and to the very end. . .

I worked on my grandmother’s quilt during a time of special concern for one of my children.  I tended fears that after all I had devoted to raising that child, perhaps I had not been enough.  I even entertained the self-defeating question that if I was not enough in this most important task, of what use was my life?. . . I grieved over the ‘what if I hads’  . . . Was I too strong?  Was I not strong enough? Had I talked when I should have listened? . . .

But I kept quilting, drawn to the strength of my mothers before me – assuring them that with all their flaws, they had been more than enough for me;  stroking the same cloth their hands had touched;  and praying that I might know how to continue to become enough for my children. . .

As I continued Grandma’s quilt, I learned something else;  my stitches were not even, and my borders were not straight.  My work was worse than Grandma’s!  Nevertheless, to continue my well-worn metaphor, author Mary Neal proposed:

Each of us is like a small piece of thread that contributes to the weaving of a very large and very beautiful tapestry.  We, as single threads, spend our lives worrying about our thread – what color it is and how long it is – even becoming upset if it becomes torn or frayed.  The complete tapestry is far too large for us to see and of too complex a pattern for us to appreciate the importance of our single thread.  Regardless, without our individual contribution, the tapestry would be incomplete and broken.  We should therefore, recognize and take joy in our contribution.  Indeed, our threads – our lives – are important;  what we do and the choices we make, even the seemingly small ones, actually make a difference. 

Was it worth continuing the imperfect work that now extends across the lives of multiple generations of imperfect women?

It connects me to who I am. . .

Jeffrey Holland said:  ‘Don’t give up . . . Don’t you quit.  You keep walking.  You keep trying.  There is help and happiness ahead  . . . It will be all right in the end.  Trust God and believe in good things to come.’ . . .

Rejoicing can be learned.  Joy can be cultivated by practicing gratitude, forgiveness, and kindness. . . ”

I hope you’ll read the entire article by Elaine. She has some keen insights about finding joy in life in addition to quilting. Click here to read the entire article or watch on video.

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