Back in 2006, St. Martin’s Press accepted my proposal to edit a group of stories by quilters. American Patchwork: True Stories from Quilters is the result. Published in 2007, the 65 stories in this collection range from the sad to the funny and back again.
One of my earliest contributors was a woman named Judy Bowden who lived in Strafford, Vermont. In the years since then, Judy became a friend, first through our mutual love of quilting (a hobby she picked up in 1971), and then through a love of books, travel, and the lure of ancient sites such as Stonehenge.
Judy died just before Christmas last year. Her deep, rich laugh and radiant smile are missed. This week, I wanted to share the story she wrote for American Patchwork in her honor.
After a close relationship of almost twenty years, I married and moved into my new husband’s home. Before the wedding, we had agreed that I could redecorate the interior of his home from “men’s dorm-style hodgepodge” to my preference of “antique French country with lots of color.” I have a background in many diverse fields, including interior design, so you can imagine how anxious I was to get started.
For the first few weeks of married life, we slept beneath an unzipped sleeping bag that had serviced as his bedspread for many years. That old and torn sleeping bag was just too much for a new bride but I knew it would take months for me to find the time to set up a work space to make my own quilt, and I just couldn’t wait that long.
So I purchased a lovely bargello patchwork in pastels of blue, rose, and white, complete with matching pillow shams.
And then I waited for him to notice what I had done.
I waited for two weeks but he never said a word. So I thought maybe he didn’t like it or thought it was too feminine, though he hadn’t objected to my Teddy bears. Finally, when he didn’t pick up on the hints I was dropping, I led him into the bedroom and asked if he noticed anything.
He looked around and after a while, he said, “No, I don’t smell anything.”
I gulped and pointed to the quilt. That’s when he finally realized that his old sleeping bag was missing. He assured me that he liked the bargello patchwork, and then asked if I’d made it.
I responded, “Of course, last night while you were at your meeting.”
I should explain that my husband is clueless about quilts and honestly has no idea how long it takes to make one. But this is not necessarily a fault, because he also has no idea about the size of my fabric stash (packed away in boxes) or the money I have invested in fabrics, quilting supplies, etc.
And I don’t intend to shock him with that information.
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I wrote this set of resolutions when I was president of my quilt guild in 2013. Even if you’re not a quilter, I’ll bet you’ve got a passion that lights your fire like this one.
January 1, 2016: I resolve not* to buy any fabric this year. I will sew only with what I have in my stash.
• Unless it’s something really pretty that just came into Hen House Fabrics in White River Junction or Barnyard Quilting in Fairlee.
• Except for something really cool that I find on sale in the back room of Country Treasures in Chester during the Vermont Shop Hop in March.
• Or anything else I find during the Vermont Shop Hop that I know will get sold out quickly if I don’t buy it now, especially when I am encouraged to think this way by the
friends fellow enablers that I’m Shop Hopping with.
• Except for shopping the vendors at the Vermont Quilt Festival in June because I often find things there that I just don’t find anywhere else.
• Unless it’s fabric at a summer stash buster sale put on by a
guild member fellow enabler because I know the prices will be incredible.
• Unless it’s something at the Textile Company in Greenfield, Massachusetts because I’m driving south on Interstate 91 and I rarely go that way so I might as well stop.
• And while I’m at it, I should probably stop at Frank’s in Charlestown, NH on my way south on Interstate 91 to see what he has on the shelf.
• Of course, I only get to Keepsake Quilting once a year when I go to my guild’s Geneva Point retreat so I have to stop to see what’s on sale, and besides, I may need some new Christmas fabric.
• And then on the way home from Geneva Point, I should also stop at North Country Quilters because when will I get to Rumney, NH again this year?
• And then there’s the stuff on sale in the bathroom at Quilted Threads in Henniker, NH which is not that far off Interstate 89 on my way back from a visit to the New England Quilt Museum.
January 1, 2017: I resolve not to buy any fabric this year because I have run out of space in my stash cabinet, and my husband says he’s not building me another, and I’ve run out of places to hide fabric in the house.
I’m currently working on a quilt book that accompanies my first Carding novel, The Road Unsalted. Its working title is String Theory I and it will make its debut during the Vermont Quilt Festival as a premium for folks willing to make a donation of $20 or more to our little-nonprofit-that-can, the Parkinson’s Comfort Project.
The Comfort Project accepts the occasional fabric donation and a couple of weeks ago, I got a call from a lovely woman who used to be a member of my quilt guild, Northern Lights.
She no longer quilts because of arthritis and was looking for a good home for part of her stash. Since I knew she was a quilter, that meant she knew what kind of fabric is best for our project (something I’ve learned to be careful about) so I said yes.
When I opened the boxes she’d sent, I found parts of a couple of projects she’d started making. One of them was in pink fabrics. I have no idea what her ultimate plan was for these pieces but they are now part of a quilt in String Theory I.
I love repurposing.
We have an expression in our house that we use to describe those nights when you can’t sleep because your head is whirling with ideas. We call it “busy brain.”
I’ve never been able to decide whether I like busy brain or not.
I love busy brain when I’m neck-deep working on a book and find myself with my toes on the edge of a metaphorical cliff because I need to decide “what happens next.” And then somewhere in that swirl, a really good idea pops up.
The problem is, a night of busy brain often leads to an almost hangover-like condition the next day because I am ssooo sleepy.
I have busy-brain episodes about other things as well, such as quilting ideas. You can see the results of one of those quilt-brain nights here when I thought it would be fun to use the same pattern to create a different quilt for each season—summer, fall, winter, spring.
The only problem is finding the time to fulfill the brainstorms that strike at midnight. In this case, it was about three years between the creation of the top of the spring quilt to the sewing the sleeve on the back of my summer quilt last night so all four of them can hang in my guild’s quilt show this weekend.