Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Raspberry Patchwork Quilt for My Mother

This is a long story with lots of photos - it covers the month of December and an entire quilt, and I couldn't bear to leave out the details.  Settle in, if you're still with me. . .

My mother sent out some Christmas gift ideas in early December (we usually do, on that side of the family, to be helpful), and then she sent out a separate email begging for a throw quilt to snuggle under.  Dad had gotten her a polyester fleece blanket at Costco that she described as "slimy."  I immediately replied to her that I wanted to make her a quilt - I could see her desire and need so clearly - but that I wasn't a fast quiltmaker, so it might take a while.

Meanwhile, my sister was getting ready to purchase a quilt online for Mom, when I emailed my siblings and told them to back off: I was going to make a quilt.  This was December 6.  

The next day, I was digging in my cedar chest for some flannel sheets and lo, there was a patchwork quilt top that Mom had given me when she and Dad cleaned out their big house last year to move to a little house.  I had completely forgotten the quilt top, and I have no idea why I didn't store it with the other quilts in an upstairs closet.  

Suddenly, I had the daring idea of using this quilt top and finishing a throw quilt for Mom in time for Christmas morning.  Understand, I had never made a quilt quickly and never made a quilt to meet a deadline; I ruminate on quilt designs and colors for a while before I begin, and then the quilt is a background project that I work on leisurely when I feel like it. 

With supersonic speed, I worked up a color scheme to lend a bit of harmony to the randomness of the patchwork. I decided to employ all three methods of quilting (knotting, hand quilting, and machine quilting) for efficiency. I got myself to the fabric store right quick and bought puffy batting, flannel for a snuggly back, and calico for the binding.  I asked Rebecca for a bit of red wool yarn; her mother delivered hand-spun, hand-dyed wool from their very own sheep.  I actually felt nervous handling such special yarn.

First, I used the raspberry wool yarn to knot all the middles of the solid patches and along the border.  Then I used raspberry perle cotton to handquilt in long straight lines through the middles of the 9-patch squares.  Finally, I machine quilted around each block and made my typical "framing" lines in the border.  For the machine quilting, I used ecru thread on the top and pink thread in the bobbin to make the machine quilting as subtle as possible, just texture and strength.  I read a helpful article that gave advice on how much quilting a quilt needs; in a heavy quilt that is going to be washed, the quilting strengthens the quilt when it is leaden with water.  I was deliberately making this a heavy, snuggly quilt, and I knew it was going to be washed - I would do the first washing to help the wool ties felt down into little balls (like this). 

My children are now total champs at keeping secrets.  They kept our baby a secret for weeks without dropping any hints or bursting, and they did the same thing with the quilt secret every time they were around Granny.  

photo credits to my husband for all the quilt opening and hugging

Well, somehow, I snatched enough time this December to complete the quilt on December 23.  I had to wait for the rain to stop on Christmas morning to take pictures, but then I wrapped it in wrapping paper that Genevieve made and well, it was wonderful.  

I rarely have such a special gift to give to a beloved person, especially one they are not expecting.  My mother was totally surprised and happy. You can see it, right?

She tells me that the quilt top is from Grandma Weaver's things, but we are both guessing that Grandma did not make the quilt top.  For one thing, the fabric is very old (although still quite sturdy - probably because it was not made into a quilt and used), but also, the piecing work is beautiful and with an eye to regularity that Grandma did not have.

So, I'm back to the regular quilting in the background.  Actually, my latest quilt is nearly done after 18 months of on-and-off quilting. I'll be sure to share it here!


  1. Oh, I love this!! Your mother is so cute and pleased in the photos. What a gift to be able to surprise her in such a wonderful way. I love meaningful gifts. This brought a tear to my eye!! And let me just say that I'm in awe of your quilting skillz. I've got none!

    Good job!!

  2. What a wonderful gift! You can see that your Mum is delighted. I am really envious of your creative skills and the colours are fabulous. Jx

  3. How wonderful :-) Sometimes these things just come together, and it's so much fun to be part of and to watch!

  4. What a wonderful story! I love the quilt, and it was neat to see pictures of your mom, along with you and your daughter... and I like that she was wearing her apron in the photos. Something my mom would do too.

  5. Such a great story, and great to combine old and new...

  6. What an amazing story and a beautiful quilt! Your mom looks so happy snuggled up in it :)

    It was so interesting to read how you quilted this. The colours are wonderful.

    In a very unrelated topic, we have the twin to your wingback chair, except in a different fabric :)

  7. LOVE.

    That kind of gift is the best kind to give and receive!

  8. How beautiful!

    You almost make me want to start quilting.

    I know your mom will treasure it. So so special.

  9. The photo of your mother wrapped in it speaks volumes. I'm so impressed at your mixture of hand stitching, machine stitching and tying - instead of looking like a mishmosh it's just perfect! Good for you, Margo!

  10. What a thoughtful, loving gift! It turned out beautiful!

  11. Beautiful gift of love! Christina

  12. This is so lovely! How great to make such good use of something that was sitting and waiting to be finished, into a quilt that will be treasured!

  13. What a wonderful, thoughtful gift. The photos are wonderful. I am sure the feeling in that room even more so. It looks great. I started my first quilt in October. I've not touched it in a while now. I like your back-burner approach to quilting, I think.


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