Thursday, June 8, 2017

Putting Life Back Together: Mom's Quilting Legacy Will Continue

This, and many posts to come, will be out of chronological order. Why? Because the family is working our way through another refiner's fire and I simply haven't had the heart to blog. What refiner's fire? The loss of my sweet mother to that horrid disease, cancer. While the feelings are still very tender, retelling the journey will be an important process, which I hope will be a form of therapy.

When Mom passed away, we had the task of packing up and clearing out the house to prepare it for sale. The contents of Mom's sewing room were some of the hardest things to pack up.  I knew it wasn't something I was emotionally prepared to deal with right away; so, several family members pitched in and helped me toss everything into boxes, tape them up, and move it all to our house. I figured once we got the funeral and my parents' house taken care of I would be ready to take on the challenge of sorting through her sewing things and finding a new home for everything.

The boxes, at least 10 LARGE packing boxes, were shoved under the long arm and along the walls of my sewing room. There was so much plunder in there that I felt like a hoarder; only a path to the ironing board was clear. It was a crazy mess.

This isn't even all of it! These pictures were taken after I had already sorted through all of her quilting books, magazines, and patterns.  Included in the books were manuals, CDs, and file folders with individual projects. It was an extensive library.  I knew I would never use the books that were for applique because it just isn't something I enjoy. (Mom was gifted at needle turned, hand applique!) My sister-in-law, Kathy, took some of the books. Another sister-in-law, Deb, does stained glass so she took several things to use as patterns.  Unfortunately, it was only a drop in the bucket. 

just a few of the books and magazines

After the books and patterns were sorted, I tackled the fabric boxes. I knew my little sewing room wouldn't hold even a fraction of the things in Mom's inventory. I had to be deliberate and methodical about the purging process. One of the fabric lines that Mom was passionate about was the 30's Reproduction fabrics. I knew those were keepers. She also was pretty smart when it came to keeping a stash of background and backing fabric on hand. Those things were easy to place in the keep pile. But, among her stash were COUNTLESS fabrics that were used as landscape pieces in her applique. Trees, stones, water, sky, leaves, plants, fur, scales... any fabric that could be cut into tiny pieces and used in a picture on a quilt filled several plastic tubs. I put all of that into one box and will donate it to the local quilt guild.  Other fabrics that could be used to make donation quilts for the cancer unit or pregnancy shelter were also placed in donation boxes.  Still, as I continued to "eat the elephant one bite at a time," I knew I needed more storage space. Luckily, my sweet husband consolidated all of his things in his office closet and the one where he stored his sports officiating gear. That freed up an entire closet!

The whole process of unpacking, sorting, repacking labeling boxes, and organizing took from June 2nd until June 7th. I worked from the time I got up, until well after midnight on some days. There were times when it was overwhelming and I would worry about the stupidest things. What if I died before I ever got it all sorted?? What would poor Ron do with all of this stuff?? What if I throw something out that should be kept?? What if I regret getting rid of that little tin or that cute basket Mom used to store things in?? Lots of worry and tears went into the task. 

But, as I worked through the things Mom left behind, I came to appreciate her talent more than ever. She was a simple and humble woman who shared her skills and knowledge with those she knew and loved. Her quilts are cherished gifts that will become family heirlooms and will serve as a link between her and the many grandchildren and great-grandchildren she left behind. It is a motivating force for me to continue her legacy and create those links with my own children and grandchildren.  Through the art of quilting, I will carry on her legacy. 

So, I finally have a "finished" product. My sewing room isn't trendy, color coordinated, cute, or state of the art. But it is filled with objects that connect me to Mom. I miss her more than words can say; but, each time I am in my sewing room, I feel her spirit with me. 

This is inside the closet that Ron gave up. Each tub or box is labeled with the project or type of fabric it contains.

As you walk into the sewing room, there is a white shelf on the left side. That's where I stored part of my original stash. I had to purge my own stash to make room for some of Mom's. 

The craft table was a gift from another quilting mentor and fellow teacher, Juanita Benoit. Luckily, it is a good sturdy table and folds up when I don't need the work space. The sewing machine and cabinet were Mom's. I packed up my Janome and am storing it just in case I never figure out how to use Mom's Viking. The white cabinet was built by Dad especially for Mom's sewing room. She painted the cute quilt blocks on the doors. It is yet another reminder of the many talents my parents had. 

Mom's sewing machine and Dad's cabinet
inside the white cabinet

When Ron and I looked at this house, one of the selling points was a room long enough for my long arm quilting machine. Mom and I split the price of the machine because she had accumulate so many unfinished tops! She has a lot of stitching miles on her.  Millie fits perfectly along one wall of the room. The boxes underneath are filled with a combination of my fabric stash and Mom's. Luckily, they slide easily on the carpet so I can work from both sides of the quilting machine.  

Millie and fabric storage

The closet straight ahead is the second place I stored my fabric stash. It has shelves built on one side and I had a plastic shelving unit left over from my classroom that added additional storage space.  

craft table, storage shelf

inside sewing room closet

Now that everything is sorted, packed, labeled, and organized, one challenge will be to NOT buy any more fabric... for a very long time!! And, the second challenge will be to use up what I have on hand.  As for what is going to the quilt guild... well, let's just say that the charity coordinator better have a big truck with her when she comes to pick it up!

donations for the guild

The boxes are emptied, but my heart is not. 
Love you, Mom.

1 comment:

Rhonda Jones said...

Gwen, I am so glad you have those wonderful things from your mom. Her legacy will continue. I know it was a lot of work and very emotional for you to do this.