Quilts and babies, babies and quilts! This past summer my sewing room was littered with strips, triangles, squares, half-square triangles, and various scraps in a rainbow of colors and patterns.
All these little pieces of fabric would become six different baby quilts. There were jungle prints, Winnie-the Pooh prints, paw prints, butterfly prints, even Star Wars prints. I hoped for some magical mice to appear to help get the jobs done, but they were a no show.
I usually have a quilt project in the works at all times, but between June 1 and September 15, I needed to get six baby quilts made. At times, it seemed I was quilting in my sleep. The unevenness of the stitches proved it! Piecing the tops came together pretty quickly and easily, which for me, is saying a lot.
Years ago, while looking at a picture of a quilt I was considering making, I commented that it would be pretty hard. My young son responded, “Quilting isn’t hard. You just sew the fabric together, rip it apart, and then sew it together again.” Clearly, he has watched me piece many a quilt.
The most complicated and the one I found the most challenging was a quilt that used the mom’s baby clothes combined with the grandmom’s wedding dress. Many times, I pulled out the wedding dress but just couldn’t start cutting it up. I called her at least twice and said, “You’re sure?” Finally, with a deadline looming, I took the scissors to the wedding dress. There was no turning back.
I cut the baby clothes into squares and sewed them into blocks, then added several lace pieces from the wedding dress. It came out really precious and, thankfully, survived its first trip through the washer and dryer. More importantly, Mom and Grandmom were thrilled with it.
To me, piecing a quilt is fun. You take various shapes and colors and sew them together in such a way that they make a pattern. Yes, sometimes I sew them together along the wrong side or in a way that things don’t match up correctly, and I have to rip them out and try again. But piecing a baby quilt only takes a day or two, even with a redo or two. It’s the quilting that takes the time.
I hand quilt all of my quilts, no matter how big. In the midst of the six baby quilts, I was also working on a queen-sized quilt for a friend. My quilting friends have a saying, “it all comes out in the quilting.” If points or seams didn’t match up perfectly or there were other piecing mistakes, they can be fixed or at least hidden in the quilting. No quilt is without flaws, but that’s what makes it unique, kind of my signature.
Once the top is finished and layered together with the batting and backing, it goes into the quilting frame. Grabbing my thimble, thread, and scissors, it’s time to get to the business of quilting.
Taking a deep breath, I remind myself that there will be pain, but it will turn out beautiful. You see, I have a tendency to stab myself regularly while quilting. Callouses grow on the tips of my thumb, index finger, and middle finger, as well as a big one on the side of my ring finger. The good thing is, as the callouses thicken, stabbing my fingers becomes less painful.
Making so many quilts, I started a new tradition. As I sit and quilt in each stitch, I pray for the baby and the parents. The frequent stabbings tell me that there will be painful times for the families receiving this quilt, and I pray for them. Quilting a baby-sized quilt usually takes about two weeks, depending on the detail involved. That’s two weeks of praying for a family and new baby. What a privilege and a blessing!
A picture hangs in my sewing room that reads, “Families are like quilts . . . lives pieced together, stitched with smiles and tears, colored with memories, and bound by love.” Many of the quilts in my house came from my husband’s great-grandmothers. His mom would point out the fabrics that she remembered, one of her dresses, her father’s shirt, her mother’s apron, etc. It makes them even more special.
Our family has a long history of quilters. I am the only one in my generation who quilts, but that young, smart aleck son of mine is now all grown up and made a beautiful quilt for his wife that adorns their bed. My 3-yr-old granddaughter loves to help me tear fabric into strips, and she helped mark the quilting pattern on the last baby quilt. Maybe the tradition will continue for a few more generations.
More importantly than the quilts that are passed from generation to generation, I pray that the love of our heavenly Father will also be passed down. But we, your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise. (Psalm 79:8 ESV) Nothing warms the heart of a grandmom like hearing her grandchild sing praise to God (snuggled under the warmth of a pretty quilt!).
Lisa Radcliff is a writer, speaker, women’s Bible study teacher, and a 35-year volunteer youth worker, residing in Pennsburg, PA. She is a wife, mom, and mom-mom who loves God’s Word but also loves football, chocolate, shoes, and Maine. Her hobbies include quilting, shopping, cooking, and raising Seeing Eye puppies. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.