As part of our Annual National Quilting Day celebration, MSQC has hosted a story contest for the last four years. We’re happy to share our three winning stories from this year’s contest. I say I’m happy, but I’m actually so sad that we only get three winners. These stories are truly amazing and so many of them touched my heart. But if you enjoy reading them as much as I do, don’t worry! I will be sharing more of them throughout the year each week as part of our Stitched Together series in our Daily Deal email (sign up to receive it in your inbox daily HERE), and including them in our next Stitched Together book.
Quilters know, when something isn’t right and it seems there’s nothing you can do about it, you can quilt. The winning story in our annual Stitched Together Story Contest will hit home to all of us who have waited, loved, and quilted. A big thank you to our anonymous quilting friend for sharing with us.
“As a thirty-four-year-old, I was finally about to become a mother. But the question was ‘When?’ My husband and I had been married almost five years and were deep into the paperwork and emotional ups and downs of international adoption. We were assigned a baby boy. Weeks would go by and we would hear nothing, then a letter from his foster mom arrived, and on a really good week, we would receive pictures. ‘When?’ That was always the question.
“The ache was deep. The wait was agonizing. We both longed for a child. God did not bring our dreams about the way we hoped. I felt helpless. I had to DO something! So I did what I loved to do since I was ten. I sewed. We were preparing his room, and I decided to make a quilt. This was 1991 and there were no ideas on Pinterest, no online classes to learn to quilt and no computer for that matter! I had never made a quilt before!
“I loved bright colors, and I thought all boys loved cars and trucks, so I went to a fabric store and picked a brightly-colored cotton fabric covered with modes of transportation. I copied and enlarged those little figures to make appliqued trucks, cars, planes, boats and trains. I was doing this for him. Really? Really it was for me! As I sewed, I felt like he was almost with us. I was connecting my heart to the precious little life I did not yet have in my home – my love grew with each block and stitch. I was comforted by the whole process. I even made his crib sheets out of the colorful fabric. But when would he get to cover up with his quilt? When would we be able to snuggle on his bed? When?
“I made the quilt top, and paid someone to hand quilt the layers. I was so excited. I was doing something for the little toddler miles and miles away from us. I made a simple small pillow out of the quilt fabric, and sent it to El Salvador hoping it would arrive safely and that he would hug it and smell a little of me!
“We received the first precious photo of him when he was six weeks old. Finally, when he was 20 months old, my husband and I traveled there to meet him and bring him home. The three-day journey was emotional and incredible, one of the best times of our lives.
“Three other adopted children and twenty-five years later my quilting skills grow, and my love continues.”
In El Salvador: We received this picture while we were in the waiting process; our son is in the upper left corner, and I was thrilled to see his little pillow in the picture!
At home: Our little guy and daddy reading on top of his quilt; his little pillow on top of the large pillow.
When he was three, the pillow case fabric was thread-bare! We finally had to get rid of it.
Close to his college graduation, and upon taking his first career music job, I made him two other quilts.
Our 2nd story comes from Molly and it’s about the power of teaching others to quilt.
“’Hey everyone, Tammy finished her first quilt.’ I hold up the pink and purple rail fence quilt for all to admire. Her classmates clap; Tammy beams.
“I’m a member of Coffee Creek Quilters, a group that teaches quilting to women incarcerated at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, Oregon. There are four weekly two-hour classes, each with twenty students. Each student makes three quilts. We donate the first two quilts to various organizations for hospice patients, kids in foster care, and the like. Students can keep the third quilt, which is a very big deal when you live in a prison dormitory where everyone wears navy blue and orange. Some do keep their third quilts, but quite a few give them to family members, kids and moms.
“People often ask how we structure our quilting classes. In some ways it’s the same as a class in a quilt shop. Instructors explain the basics of cutting strips of fabric with rulers, rotary cutters, and mats. Students learn to thread a sewing machine, sew quarter inch seams, and follow a pattern.
“In other ways, CCQ classes are very different. Prison security rules require that we count every pin, needle, and rotary cutter blade before taking them in to class. We pass through a metal detector before entering the dining room where class is held. And there are restrictions on the color of clothing we can wear, such as no blue jeans.
“Our goals are similar to quilt shop classes, but with some differences. We want our students to become proficient in quilt-making techniques. But we also strive to teach patience, perseverance, problem-solving, and the importance of quality work. We work to nurture our students’ self-confidence and self-esteem, attributes that we hope will help them to be successful at living in the community after release from prison.
“It takes around eighteen months for students to go through the CCQ program. During that time we gradually get to know each other. Last week Tammy said her daughter’s birthday is coming up, Maureen told me she’d applied for the eyeglass program, and I heard that Jamie is learning math in her quest for a GED certificate. I told the story about how good it felt seeing a resident in my Mom’s memory care community bundled up in the yellow and green churn dash quilt I had made.
“Some of our students come to love quilting just as much as we do, while others decide it isn’t their cuppa darjeeling. Everyone who completes the class is eligible to receive a ‘release kit’ when they’re released from prison — a used sewing machine, thread, scissors, pins and needles, rotary cutter and mat, and a selection of fabric and batting to make their next quilt.
“Next week I plan to bring my latest project, my purple rain quilt, to class for show ‘n tell. Because that’s what quilters do.”
Our 3rd story comes from Suzanne and it’s full of love and generosity. Thanks for sharing!
“My twin sister and my twin daughters are all fabulous, experienced quilters, but for years now I have declined to quilt. I have been an avid and even professional seamstress in my years but quilting was just something I didn’t think I had the patience for.
“My sister’s son, my nephew, is a Blackhawk Helicopter pilot in the Army and was sent to Kosovo for a period of time, approximately one year. She lovingly made him a quilt and sent it since it was winter there and she wanted him to be warm. He cherished it and so did his other twenty-seven compatriots. Then my sister got the wonderful, generous thought to make all of them quilts… WAIT, HOLD ON… how can you make twenty-seven more quilts and get them done and sent in any reasonable amount of time? I had to help. Yes, I had to help, even though I had only made two very simple quilts with my daughters’ help at the time.
“We battened down the hatches and asked people to help. We tried to raise funds to cover the enormous cost. Many friends and family gave to assist in this endeavor although we did not reach our goal on a crowdfunding website. No matter, we forged ahead. What began as “I’m not going to let her do this alone, I have to help…” ended with a heart wrenching (in a good way) call to arms to help. Many of the people who made quilt tops we did not even know, a very humbling action for strangers to do for others. They were friends of friends. It was so good to see people step up to give to our servicemen and women and they were so very grateful for the love, thoughts and quilts they received.
“Some quilters received letters but all received a wonderful certificate made by the troops and sent to us in gratitude. They also took pictures of each serviceman and woman receiving the quilt and sent them to us. In total we received or made thirty-four quilts in about two and a half months. Thank goodness the troops are now returned from Kosovo and they held a special thank you ceremony upon their return for my sister. She received a framed certificate of thanks with everyone’s name who assisted in our ‘Quilts of Valor’ project.
“Needless to say, I am now a quilter and it usually takes first choice in what I wish to do each day. I fell in love with it and I was so wrong about not having the patience to quilt. Quilting is like life, one square at a time and it’ll come together just fine!”
The only thing I love more than quilting fabric is quilting stories. Got a good one? Send me yours at firstname.lastname@example.org for the chance to be featured!