Confessions of a Want-to-be Quilter©
Memoirs of Carol S. Jackson, Evans, GA
Posted by the author
When I got to Meridian, there had many changes in the house. Granny had electricity and indoor bathrooms! A lot of space in the linen room was lost to make room for the bath rooms. There was a small bath on Aunt Dee’s side of the house which had been the closet nook. Her bath had a little shower, and a big bath was on Granny’s side of the house. Her bath had a big iron tub which sat up on golden balls. It was called a ball and claw tub. There was a little window in the wall above where the old galvanized tup had hung. There was a new kitchen sink too, which had running water. I thought I’d miss the hand pump. The well was failing, and was the main reason for getting the running water. Running water meant easy baths. “It was a natural” they said. Aunt Dee had a new electric stove and refrigerator. Granny was still using the wood stove. Outside, on the lower level, under the kitchen, were still the double wash tubs and hand wringer. The big cauldron had been moved to a new location to allow for the drain pipes, but still sat ready for wash day.
Vacation was going to be special this year. I had an old, green, Army, laundry bag, filled with cloth scraps from the many clothes mom had made for herself and me, and some scraps from chair slip covers and curtains. I’d do the same thing as last year, cut, sort and store, shapes for a new quilt. This year, however, I was going to make my own block, start to finish.
However, Granny only gave me one piece of cardboard. She was going to make some sort of fan, but I could make one too. The cutting was easy, the fan used only straight edges. I used one of my Uncle Walter’s carpenters’ pencil to trace the designs on the back of the scraps, making as many fit per scrap as I could. It was like working a puzzle. They didn’t even have to be sorted, but we needed several boxes full.
Just after lunch, We began pressing the edges under. I used a piece of cardboard which was smaller than the one I had used as a tracing guide. As I ran the spoon over the edges of the cloth, around the cardboard, I was impressed with how it stayed down by itself. My wise grandmother taught me the difference in new piece goods and rags. Granny heated the iron. It was a new electric one. I was having trouble keeping up with her. At least I didn’t have to use pins.
When the supper dishes were put away, we began putting the fans together. We laid them out on a towel. Aunt Dee helped too. We would sort the pieces as we laid them out, a dark against a light, they didn’t have to be perfect. Two or three fans would fit on a towel, then we covered it with a piece of butcher paper and another towel. There were a lot of round fans. The plan was to begin sewing after the morning chores were done.
Sew we did. I was real slow. A couple of neighbor ladies came over, and we all sat on the wrap around porch of the old Victorian style house, enjoying the summer breeze. They were chatting boring adult nonsense, and I asked to be excused. I picked up my pieces and stitched alone until late in the evening. I finished several circular fans that day. By the end of the week we had a huge pile of fans. Granny gave me a canning jar ring to use as a pattern for the center of the fans. The circles had to be pinned before pressing though. Even with the corn starch water, the edges wouldn’t stay down without pins.
We walked to town the next day. It was mostly down hill. Once downtown, we went to a Yard Goods store. The wooden floor creaked under our steps. Ceiling fans purred above our heads. Long rolls of cloth were stacked on large wooden tables in the center of the room. Two walls were covered with shelves containing bolts of gingham, checks and calicoes. Another wall was buttons and zippers. A free standing rack contained threads. I began to wander to see what was around the corner when I was called back. A purchase had been made, we were leaving. The return trip to the house was a difficult uphill
climb. I wasn’t accustomed to hills - New Orleans is flat.
The floor of the drawing room was cleared, and the new yellow cloth was unfolded and pinned to the rug. Granny and Aunt Dee used measuring tape and string to lay out grids on the cloth. I gently crawled across the cloth, putting an X of pins where two strings crossed each other. When the neighbor ladies came over the next day, they fashioned a light weight rope high between the porch columns, and attached the yellow cloth to it like a giant clothes line. A fan circle was pinned onto each cross of pins. They stood back, looked and commented and readjusted the fans. When the beginning of the quilt came down, it was laid out across the holiday dinning table in the foyer. The ladies took seats around the table. Each one had a little pair of scissors, thimble, thread and strawberry of pins and needles. I brought my little sewing basket to the table and stood by the chair. The ladies eyed me rather peculiarly, but Granny just smiled at me and patted the chair. One of the ladies asked me if I had ever been to a quilting bee before. I admitted that I didn’t know what a quilting bee was. I tuned out their idle chatter as I entered my own little world and made perfect turkey tracks between the fan blades and blanket stitches around the points.
The neighbors came over once a week. They weren’t finished with the quilt when it was time to go back to New Orleans. So, once again, I left a project for some one else to finish. That Thanksgiving, was our rotation to eat with Mom’s sister, so we stayed in town. We did go to Meridian for traditional Christmas though. Granny gave the fan quilt to Mom & Dad. She told how hard I had worked during my summer vacation to make the quilt, and that they should be proud of me. Meanwhile, Mom was busy saying, “Look, there is the dress I made for the Mardi Gras party, and there is . . . “ Oh well, at least I got a hug from Granny and Dad.
. . . to be continued . . .
To read or re-read the story to this point:
episode #1 http://www.quiltingboard.com/t-89325-1.htm
episode #2 http://www.quiltingboard.com/t-91439-1.htm
episode #3 http://www.quiltingboard.com/t-93252-1.htm
episode #4 http://www.quiltingboard.com/t-95299-1.htm
episode #5 http://www.quiltingboard.com/t-97179-1.htm
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