Quilts – A labor of love
March 7, 2011
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to give up heavy woolen covers for a lightweight quilt. My mom made the quilt I take out each spring for warmer nights. Sometimes, as I relax under it, I think about all the work that went into quilting years ago.
The first step was constructing the decorative top. Mom spent many winter evenings sewing small pieces of fabric together to make a pattern. Sometimes she ordered pieces precut from a catalog. While that saved a lot of work, it still took hours of fancy stitching to prepare each block of the quilt.
After the blocks were completed, Mom sewed them together to make the quilt top. Sometime she used a pretty colored sheet for the top. That saved a lot of work.
If the design of the top didn’t show where the stitches were to be, Mom had to trace a pattern repeatedly over it.
The bottom of the quilt might be a pretty sheet or cotton fabric, cut to size. Then Mom was ready to set up the quilt frame. This consisted of four long narrow boards and four corner stands with clamps. The long boards were clamped in place at each corner on top of the stands to form a square. A strip of heavy cotton cloth was nailed to the inside edges of the four boards.
Mom pinned the quilt bottom to the frame’s fabric strip all around the edges. Next she spread a thin layer of cotton batting over it. Then she laid the top over that. The three layers were pinned together.
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Mom hand-sewed the edges of all three layers to the strip of fabric attached to the long boards, and the quilt was ready for quilting.
After the ladies had quilted about a foot or so all around the quilt, the clamps at each corner were released so the quilt could be rolled onto the long boards. That put an unquilted area within reach of the quilters, who sat on all four sides of the quilt to work.
When the quilt was ready for quilting, Mom had to invite ladies to come help with the sewing. Of course, the ladies would come with their husbands and children, and they’d expect a generous “lunch” at the close of the evening, so Mom’s next “quilting” task was baking a cake, making chicken salad sandwiches, and putting a few jars of home-canned peaches in the refrigerator to chill.
Quilting bees were like a party to us when we were children. We’d have other children to play with as their mothers helped sew the quilt. And then there’d be a good lunch before they went home. I’m sure Mom was exhausted by the time the evening was over.
I learned to quilt as a young girl, and I loved doing it. I’m sure even Mom enjoyed it, too, once all the preparations were completed. The actual quilting gave her a chance to sit and rest her feet while her fingers worked.