Quilting like piecing stages of life together

Saltair resident puts it all together - the beautiful and the ugly - with a passionate approach

“We lay away the gleanings of our years in the edifice of our character where nothing is ever lost.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder in ‘Saving Graces’

Some of the pieces of our life quilt are joy, sorrow, hardship, peace, contentment, marriage, children, career, activities, etc. The list is endless.

I am a quilter – in more ways than one. Let me tell you about the wonder of it all.

There are small pieces of fabric, large ones; there are plain fabrics and colourful ones. Some have interesting designs on them, others are repetitive.

There are fabrics that are distinctly ugly, but when placed within a design they may enhance and even illumine the whole quilt.

Isn’t that the way our life is pieced together – including the beautiful and the ugly – all ultimately making a whole life quilt? At my age, I often look back and marvel at the complexity and diversity of each part – yet it all was made beautiful by the designer.

Then there are the fabrics that excite my quilter’s mind and bring me to a place of exultation. I come across such fabrics in a quilt shop and I know I just must have some of that. Visions of rapture dance around in my head and I see wondrous designs appearing out of such splendor.

When bringing such an unusual piece home, the question immediately arises: “Do I really want to cut into this incredible design?” I often stand before such fabric and ponder for long minutes, after which I fold it up with a sigh and place it in one of the drawers of my quilting room, to be taken out and looked at – many more times.

Someone who has never quilted or even if they have attempted one or two pieces, but have not become addicted to this wonderful process, has no idea what I am talking about. Some of you may even wonder if the edge of sanity has been crossed at one point or another. I can assure you, if you think that, you are in good company.

On the other hand, when I meet up with a complete stranger and she happens to mention the very word ‘quilting’ we are instant ‘sisters in quilting.’

There is something about the whole process of laying out each piece of fabric, pressing it to perfection and then lovingly carrying it to the cutting board.

If I were to give awareness to fabric, would it tell me to: ‘cut me longer – cut me smaller – cut me square, or triangular’? It patiently allows, me, the quilt designer, to do my work.

Then, not to forget, there are the millions of patterns. There is a special shelf stacked almost to the ceiling with books that contain these patterns. One can find anything from ancient to modern; monochromatic to wildly colourful, simple to every level of ability to the most complicated patterns.

I can assure you that if I live to be 110, I will not be able to make all the quilts I want to make.

Now that I have taken the fabric to the cutting board, I proceed to measure carefully and, using a rotary cutter I cut into my precious fabric, 120 pieces of this colour, 240 pieces of that colour and then 120 pieces of contrasting colour. Not to forget the setting triangles and each border piece.

Now I am ready to sew one small piece to the next one and the next one.

As time goes on, a pattern emerges. Again – the thrill is indescribable.

Then there are the appliqués. These are my favorites. Each piece begins with a vision of what might be.

The decision of how the background should look and then each small piece must be drawn on paper, carefully transferred to fabric and cut out and temporarily placed on the background. Then when the right setting is found it can be sewn into place.

Again, as each picture emerges, I place it on my design wall and allow it to ‘percolate’ in my mind until I am sure this is how it must look.

At times I add things to enhance my creation. At other times I drastically cut out pieces that obscure my original vision.

The end result of producing such a quilt is almost always pleasing.

The Grand Designer has such beauty in mind when He calls us to allow Him to produce our life’s quilt.

I am reminded of a song that was written by Bill Gaither in the 1970s.

“If there ever were dreams that were lofty and noble

They were my dreams at the start

And hope for life’s best were the hopes that I harbour

Down deep in my heart.

But my dreams turned to ashes

And my castles all crumbled.

My fortune turned to loss.

So I wrapped it all in the rags of my life

And laid it at the cross.

Something beautiful, something good. All my confusion He understood.

All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife, but He made something beautiful of my life.”

Christa Stegemann is a Saltair resident and avid quilter.