Always, as long as I can remember, I have needed something in my hands. Not just a toy or a memento or even a stone as other children commonly hold but something to make, to draw, to sew, to knit: to shape into something other than the original components. And I loved to involve others in my projects. Usually the others were unwilling, uninterested or just disappointed that often the results did not reflect the vision of the project.
So when my friend and employee asked to learn to quilt, I wholeheartedly embraced the lessons. Shirley Garrigan was a sweet soul, but could be a tigress when necessary and was a simple woman who had overcome disappointments far larger than any possible poor outcome of our spontaneous quilting bee. She was the perfect victim for a frustrated crafty teacher like me and we spent several hours just planning and looking at quilting books. Finally she chose a design to use paper piecing and accommodate parts of our mutual vast collection of scraps and other failed sewing projects. Shirley, being the most frugal person I can recall, decided that we were not going to buy anything to make this quilt. I copied and cut the pattern pieces and we cut hundreds of fabric pieces and set to work. During our lunch time and any other time when we had to business in our office, we stitched and chatted about our children, our men, our dreams and everything that we wished had been different in our lives. It seemed that each scrap was a reminder of something and as we sewed these memories together, I had no idea that time was really flying for Shirley. We started our pieces in 1996 and by her death at the end of 1998; we had made a coverlet sized top with several unpieced remnants.
As time passed, I added those remnants to the top and recalled many of our conversations but not nearly enough of the details. I wish that I had recorded those conversations, especially since there were so many things I could tell her daughter if I had known how important they would be. What I do remember most about Shirley is her loving spirit, her unexpectedly salty humor and her total acceptance of my teaching while she was the one actually teaching me. She often expressed that she wanted so much for her children, particularly her young daughter April. She also worried for her sons, the biological and the stepson with no difference in her love for them both.
Several years ago, I dragged out the pieces and added a border and prepared the top for quilting. I put it back in the closet and forgot about it. Recently, while attempting to learn order, I pulled all my many quilt tops out and made arrangements to have them long-arm quilted. So just in time for April to graduate with honors from the Auburn Nurse Practitioner program, I was able to give her a piece of the time her mother and I stitched our musings into a hodgepodge of cotton.
I would like to think my beloved friend would be pleased with the quilt. I know she would be totally thrilled with her beautiful, intelligent and educated daughter. April sweetly said this quilt was the best present ever but I disagree. Shirley gave me the best presents ever: her love and her daughter.
Shirley Garrigan died from Marfan Syndrome. For more information see www.marfan.org
For information about the APPLECORE design, BING has great images and instructions if you search for applecore quilts.
For long arm quilting by Joyce Davis, contact me at [email protected]