Quilters put so much more than fabric and thread into quilts. So much love, so many memories, so much of our lives are stitched into every quilt. Because of this, every quilt tells a story. It might be short and sweet, or it might reach all the way back in history.
Michele Vangraan is a Handi Quilter retailer in Destin, FL. Her shop is Coastal Stitches. Michele tells a lovely story about making a quilt for a friend. Here’s Michele’s story:
My hands seemed paralyzed as I held a sharp pair of scissors to a beautiful St. Mary’s school uniform from Rome GA. Somehow I always felt connected to those sweet little kids, seeing them all dressed up in their pristine uniforms. Growing up in South Africa, everyone wore uniforms to school.
Still holding the scissors in my hand, I remembered my first day of school, as if it were yesterday. I just couldn’t wait to get up in the morning, and get into my new school uniform. My twin brother and I were beyond excitement as we carefully placed each item at the foot of our beds before we hunkered down for the night. Our little shiny black shoes reflected the lights from the ceiling, just waiting to be worn.
That year was heavy on my parents pockets when my twin brother and I started “Grade 1” at the age of six. Craig and I were told we would have to share a school suitcase, as they couldn’t afford to get us each one. I smile now, as I imagine what would have happened if we’d been put in separate classes…. but, thank the Lord, we were in the same classes right into our fourth year of school – we were inseparable.
I remember us getting our first Math set (protractor and compass) from my Dad for the school year. I was bewildered as to why mine was plastic, and my two brother’s sets were good quality steel. “Because you’re a girl.”, was my father’s response. In my young little mind, I wondered why girls would even take Math if it weren’t important. Don’t get me wrong, I really love my Dad – he was merely reacting out of an old school of thought. which he was taught by his own father.
My Dad grew up in a small farming community, and was born much later than his older siblings. Money was tight, and his father ran a farm store, while his mother flitted around being a social butterfly – she wasn’t home much, so I’m told – always visiting family members, and not concentrating much on nurturing my father, who was born many years after his siblings. I guess by that time, she’d had enough of being a mother… who knows.
For many months, my father was treated in hospital for malnutrition as a little boy. If it weren’t for the kind workers on the farm who fed him porridge and mealie-meal (grits and maize as we know it in the USA), he would probably have starved. And, to this day, my father still never complains about that. I learned most of his childhood history from my mother and his sisters.
After coming out of hospital, he bounced back, and got up to speed with his school work. He did so well academically, that the school pushed him ahead by three grades. He passed with flying colors, and finished school at a very young age. His married sister saw the potential in him, and put him through college.
At the age of 17, Dad proudly finished college, got his first pair of shoes, and took on a job as an accountant at the local bank. “How could he have had no shoes?”, you may ask. Things were different in those days – growing up in a poor farming community, children attended school barefoot. Even today, many schools in South Africa allow children to attend school bare-footed.
My Dad worked hard to give my mother the life she had grown accustomed to as a child – she came from a more wealthy family. And he did well to provide for us all – we always had food on the table, and we learned to trust God for things and see many miracles through the power of prayer. We faced battles and challenges like any normal family would, but we all turned out okay, thanks to a Godly father who still loves the Lord.
Looking down at the pair of scissors in my hand again, I quickly remembered about needing to start Nancy’s quilt. Looking at this school uniform took me to another place, and another time.
I am making a graduation quilt for a precious customer, Nancy. She knows the blessings of being a mother, and grandmother. She loves her grandchildren dearly, and has asked me to make a soft lap quilt (56”x 68”) for her granddaughter’s 8th grade graduation, coming up May 19.
Looking at the pictures I’ve included – you will see how I planned it out. And you will see now why I am grateful I actually took Math in school.
I’ve finished cutting the Rome, GA’s St. Mary’s school uniform into strips, and I’m glad to say that the fabric will be enough to make the quilt. Nancy has included copies of Ella’s drawings over the years, printed onto fabric. I will also put the St. Mary’s logo (from Ella’s cardigan) on to the back of the quilt before it is loaded onto the HQ Infinity longarm machine. I’ll use Heat n Bond Lite fusible to secure the badge logo to the backing, and then a blanket stitch to secure the edges, before loading it onto the HQ Infinity longarm machine.
Enjoy the story behind the quilt, and seeing it come to life. Amazing to think how many memories can go into a quilt, and that we can make precious memories out of clothes and school uniforms.
Why do I love quilting so much? Because every quilt has a story to tell. And when I make quilts for customers, they become my friends, and it’s as if I become a part of their lives, celebrating their families, their history, and their memories.
Happy Graduation, Ella!
Thank you for trusting me with your precious memories, Nancy. Mwah!
Thank you Michele for sharing your story! And congratulations to Ella. May your quilt warm you, heart and soul, for years to come.