I reread the letter before looking at the clothes in the box. Jackie wrote about the Irish scarf that belonged to her mother-in-law, (who she never met) and the Campbell plaid flannel that lined a shirt which reminded her of her husband, the red cap that belonged to her father, the linens that belonged to her mother and the gingham aprons, that she asked me to send back if I couldn’t use. She asked if I could make her two lap quilts and four potholders representing different members of her family, all of them having Alzheimer’s or Dementia.
I took out each piece of clothing looking at them carefully, some whose story I knew from Jackie’s letter. The rest told their own stories, comfortable pants worn and faded around the knees, a table cloth, slightly stained, a favorite sweater. I laid out the clothes, and as I always do when I begin a quilt, wondered how I would make it all work together. I separated the fabric that had specific purposes (linens, the Campbell plaid and the red cap, for potholders that would be Christmas gifts, the Irish scarf and the shirt with “Rich” embroidered on it, a joke between Jackie and her husband) and put them aside.
The first quilt would be for Jackie’s sister. I picked though some of the pieces of clothes and having no ideas, pulled my Gee’s Bend Quilt book from the shelf. My quilting bible, the book that inspired me to start making quilts, if never fails to inspire me. I leafed through till I came to Lucy Pettway’s quilt from 1945 and I immediately knew how to begin.
I put the apron in the center, folded the blue linens into triangles and placed it all on the grey, green and white, flowered tablecloth. Then I just kept adding to it until it was done.
This is how I finished it up today. I’m pretty happy with the way it looks and will probably even have it done for Jackie’s sister’s birthday in May.
Jackie recently started a blog called Quilt of Missing Memories about her life with her family members with Alzheimer’s. It’s honest, inspiring, witty and helpful. If you want to get to know Jackie and her family better (you gotta meet her grandma) click here.