The Fabric of Our Lives

When Sean called me, he had a unique project. He had talked to other sewists but didn’t feel they understood the details which were important to him. He had been trying to find someone who would create a quilt using what could be salvaged from a quilt that was very special to his wife. He wanted to add family names. And then there were the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

There was a story behind all of this that I wanted to hear. I told him I’d love to help if I could. He texted a photo of his wife’s quilt. I didn’t understand what I was seeing at first. But then I could see that the top of the quilt was nearly gone, the remnants literally hanging by a thread. The batting was not there either.  I was looking at the wrong side of the backing, with little bits of the top held on by orange yarn. A classic tied quilt. Made with love, without a doubt.

Here’s where the story starts. About 50 years ago, Sean’s wife Gretchen arrived at an orphanage in this quilt. It’s her only connection to her family of origin. She knows her grandma made the quilt. She has slept with this quilt every night of her life. 

Sean wanted to rescue the quilt the way his wife rescued him. “I have 9 brothers, and they all have made pretty bad life choices.  I would be in the same place if it weren’t for my wife. I want to show her how special she is. How much value she has, what we have built because of her. She’s disabled, and doesn’t think she has any value. I HAVE to show her, and I know this will help.” 

Oh my heart.  This is the very reason I arrived at doing this sort of work. Not only to help a human preserve memories, though.  To show love in a tangible thing that is more than designed, but sewn together with elements of what is special and unique to them.  

What was up with the Steelers?  As a passionate Seattle Seahawks fan, I understand how we can love our teams. But this went deeper.  “We had a real rough patch, and we were close to not making it. So we decided that on Sunday game day, we would spend the whole day together and watch the game.  Nothing got in the way of that. It was our day. That time together started to heal us. So I can’t say enough how much the Steelers mean to us.”

Once we decided on all the details, I set to work.  I was able to salvage a tiny amount of fabric from the original quilt top, which I made into small “four-patch” blocks.

Four Patch blocks and appliqued letters

I found Steelers fabric on Etsy–turns out Seattle fabric stores don’t carry Steelers fabric–go figure 😉 I extricated the quilt backing to use in the new quilt–that was very important to Sean. I then created and arranged the family names in a sort of Scrabble-like set up. The new quilt is box quilted rather than tied, in order to keep the fragile backing fabric intact for years to come. 

Alex is waiting for his child’s arrival, then we will add the name.
Original backing incorporated into the new quilt

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