Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Labor of Love

By Cheryl Brooks

Many moons ago, and by that I mean sometime between 1926 and 1935, my grandmother made a quilt for my father on the foot-treadle Singer sewing machine she bought December 12, 1923. I know the date because the actual handwritten receipt is still in one of the drawers.

My father and my grandmother are both gone now, but somewhere along the line, the sewing machine and the quilt wound up with me. I used the sewing machine quite a bit before I bought a newer, electric model when my eldest son, Mike, was about eight months old. The quilt was on Mike's bed for a long time, but because it's a twin-size and we don't have any twin beds anymore, it became my exercise mat. That's the sewing machine, which has been serving as the table for various electronic devices for some time now.


The sewing machine still works quite well, but even back when it kept my son warm at night, the quilt was showing its age. Much of the fabric had worn through to the point that the batting was beginning to escape, and the patterns were so faded you could barely see the print anymore. So square by square, I began replacing the fabric, sewing new material over the old, doing most of the work by hand.

This has been going on since Mike, who is now twenty-eight, was about five or so. During that time, I replaced all of the center sections. The outer row of squares and the corners were in decent shape, so for a long time, I was content to leave it at that. But in the past week, I noticed some frayed fabric in the outer squares.

The Christmas tree was up.


The presents were all wrapped (at least those that I intend to wrap).


And I'd finished the copy edits on Cowboy Delight, the final edits on Cowboy Heaven, and turned in the manuscript for Cowboy Bliss.


So I had the time.

I got out my electric Singer and began sewing like a madwoman. I used up most of the remnants from other projects and some thread I thought I would never use. I suffered a brief setback when I ran out of white thread for the actual quilting, but after rummaging around in my sewing box, I found an entire spool of white. Not the best quality perhaps, but I was on a mission. On Monday night at about eleven thirty, I had everything done except for a new edging. I intended to get some dark red fabric and white thread to finish it yesterday, but what with all the last-minute shopping for Christmas dinner (I'm going to make figgy pudding!) I forgot about going to the fabric store until I was on my way home and not at all inclined to turn around and head back to town.

So here it is: Still a bit frayed around the edges, but finally (almost) finished after nearly twenty years of patching.


Recovering from eyestrain (I have to do the handwork with my glasses off and the seam about three inches from my face) and carpal tunnel syndrome may take some time, but I consider my efforts to have been worthwhile. I'm guessing Grandmother would agree.
Merry Christmas!

20 comments:

  1. Now that is labor of love! I remember the old treadle machines well...hated the electric one when Mama finally got one because I was so used to the treadle. Lovely, lovely quilt, Cheryl!!!!

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    1. Thanks, Carolyn! I must say, the treadle took some getting used to, but it's nice to know that I can still sew even without power!

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  2. How very cool! I wish I could sew.

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    1. It's never too late to learn, Shana. Like writing, sewing can be very rewarding!

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  3. Cheryl, That was a wonderful labor of love. Lovely Quilt. And the book covers look great too. Looking forward to the read.

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    1. Thanks, Donna! Won't be long now. Cowboy Delight's release is February 3, 2015!

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  4. I had to take sewing class in junior high on one of those machines. No cloth, just punch holes in paper. In those days no autoshop for girls alas. Your quilt is beautiful. I like the sunflowers.

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    1. Thanks, Sally! No cloth??? As I recall, I made a sleeveless blouse in Home Economics class. Punching holes in paper would be no fun at all, especially since you wouldn't have anything to show for your work.

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  5. Great story and great quilt. I have my mom's old treadle machine that looks just like yours. I learned to sew on it and was so traumatized I didn't sew for years! Merry Christmas, Cheryl!

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    1. LOL! I will admit to sewing a lot more after I bought my electric machine. Definitely a learning curve on the treadle!

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  6. Thanks for sharing such a great story. Being a fellow quilter/writer, I so appreciate what you did, although in hindsight it would probably have made more sense to make a whole new quilt than do such a huge string of repairs. Oh well. I still understand. Congrats on the Cowboys! Very enticing covers! Will look forward to reading them.

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    1. Yeah. A new quilt would've been easier, but it wouldn't have been quite as special, and it was certainly a learning experience. After all this time, I finally cut a little piece of cardstock cut in a perfect 2 1/2 inch square to use as a sewing guide. Things got a lot easier after that!

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  7. Gorgeous quilt! Yes, that is quite a labor of love, Cheryl! I have a Lone Star quilt that Husband's grandmother made for him. She was gone when we got married, but his parents presented it to us as a wedding gift from her. So lovely, but use has been hard on it and I need to replace the center of the star. Not sure I'm talented enough to do that though... merry Christmas!

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    1. Merry Christmas, Nan! Maybe I could help you with that star...

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  8. Mom says it's a nine patch. She just finished one from her mother's mother. I think your quilt is beautiful. What a wonderful thing to carry on. Speaking of carrying on, I'm loving the cowboy series. I miss cowboy stories.

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    1. Thanks, Jillian! You'll get plenty of cowboys with this series!

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  9. Beautiful! I have an old Singer as well. So many memories. Enjoy your holidays! You deserve it! It looks amazing!

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    1. Thanks, Susan! Happy Holidays to you too!

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  10. Wow! Being one of those who is challenged to sew a button on straight, I am always in awe of you who quilt! What a beautiful labor of love, thank you for sharing!

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    1. Thanks, E.L.F.! Sharing it was my pleasure!

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