Quilting fun with Marty
the (former) nun
Nearly four years ago I begin to work for the Macedonian Patriotic Organization in downtown Fort Wayne. One of my new co-workers is Marty a former nun who used to teach business classes at Bishop Luers High School and now resides with her former student Kay.
Marty grew up in Havre (pronounced Haver), Montana that was founded in 1893, primarily to serve as a major railroad service center for the Great Northern Railway. In the 1940s Havre is sparsely populated. Marty and her eight siblings attend high school two hundred miles away. They only see their parents during the major holidays and summer vacation when they returned to their farm chores.
The summer of 2009 Marty climbs aboard an Amtrak train bound for Havre. Marty’s sister Helen had passed away and it was time to celebrate her life. Marty calls me on her return to tell me she has a quilt in need of restoration. Her family had presented her with the Dresden Plate quilt she and her mother had appliqued and hand quilted decades earlier. She informs me it needs “some work.”
“Some work” indeed! I could not find a single whole piece of applique fabric on it. Most of the “spokes” had at best a half inch of fabric connecting it to the next piece; the entire middle portion non-existent. I go to my studio closet and pull out 25 vintage Dresden Plate blocks; slightly larger they would nicely cover up the shredded blocks. There was only one problem. The foundation fabric is worn and fragile. Knowing of her deep religious faith, I gently tell Marty it is not good to restore the quilt based on a bad foundation. Momentarily disappointed, I show her how her quilt can be honored by recreating it.
Using the vintage blocks, Marty chooses light and medium raspberry-colored fabric for the background, borders and inner circles and a vintage paisley for the back. I reteach her the button-hole stitch to applique around the plates. Marty is a steady worker. Soon the blocks are ready, the borders added, the quilt sandwiched and placed in the frame.
Now the real work begins as Marty’s fingers ply the needle through the layers and as she progresses her stitching improves.
Marty’s birthday falls on Pearl Harbor Day and this year is number 80. I decide to gift her with her very own quilting frame as a joint birthday-Christmas gift. With Kay’s help, the big box is hidden until the big day. Marty is surprised and delighted! Now she can work on it at home and finish it over the winter.
As the days lengthen I find myself binding the quilt. Marty is so pleased with the result of her time-span quilt. It truly honors the original quilt and the mother and daughter who created it many years ago.
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