The Quilt in Utah
Salt Lake City in November
Knowing my husband and I would be traveling in Utah this fall, I contacted a friend in SLC to find out if there might be a place to volunteer with the quilt.
Ann told me about a great school where she and her daughter had volunteered. I was incredibly impressed to find their website and learn the history of NH, which began in 1894 with a free kindergarten program for low income families. By 1978, Neighborhood House was serving preschool age children as well as adult seniors with the opening of an adult day care center. Their goal to bring individuals, families and communities together, sounded like a perfect place for the quilt.
More info on Neighborhood House: http://nhutah.org/
Over the phone I made arrangements to visit on November 6, to gather with a group of seniors. On that chilly morning, I arrived with my usual quilt-themed books, props and samples and gathered with a cheery bunch. I teased that we might need to all just wrap up in the quilt.
Designs and Patterns
We talked about the endless possibilities of colors and and patterns in designing a quilt. I passed out the wooden shapes and was amazed to notice a few who stayed focused making patterns for the rest of the sharing time. "I should have brought a couple of cases of these shapes!" I laughed. We tried to imagine the whole 9x9 foot quilt covered with a giant wooden quilt.
I showed the group a portion of the on-going quilt that I'm making with the help of new friends. About half the group was interested in decorating fabric squares to add on to my work in progress.
Paul, who was the most vocal in our group, was quick to start in on his square. He printed the word peace with a Sharpee, and then listed words that are important to him. What a perfect contribution to a collaborative quilt project!
We spent over an hour casually sharing around the quilt. Some continued with the wood shapes, others worked on fabric squares. Elizabeth, who knows a lot about the art of quilting, spotted and admired all the hand stitched samples on the quilt. There was some discussion about the best quilt colors and yellow ranked very high. Loretta was quick to guess what quilt related object was in the mystery bag...a spool of thread.
We talked about words that come to mind with the idea of a quilt and Loretta answered first with security.
It was nearly noon as we finished up. I was so pleased to have some additional squares to add to the new quilt. I'll think of this group as I sew on the new pieces. A few were very eager to help me gather the materials and help fold up the quilt. I felt a little sad when a few asked when I was coming back. I wish I could have said, very soon.
The most talked about item at our gathering was this patchwork design, given to me by my sweet friend Claire 34 years ago. I knew nothing about quilts back then, but I have always admired Claire's work as an artist and I've shared this hand-stitched piece with many groups over the years. I loved hearing the comments as the colorful sample was passed around. Everyone wanted to know why the orange and blue square in the corner was so different than the others. I was excited to tell the group I would try to find out...because I was having lunch with my old college buddy that day!
What I Learned
Every group I work with always gives me something to wonder about and this group made me wonder about Claire's piece. All groups have admired the designs and colors, but no one has ever focused on that corner square until today. After I left the Neighborhood House I met up with Claire for lunch and a hike. She was surprised when I showed her the old gift that I had shared earlier that morning. "What about this square?" I asked, pointing to the corner design that was so different. "Hmmm?" She wondered and laughed. "I have no idea why I made that different!"
Maybe I'll just have to come back for another visit. Claire can come along and they can ask her about the mystery square!
For 20+ years children have called it the Magic Quilt. They've danced and pretended all over these colorful squares. I've dragged it to schools, shelters and studios where children have climbed on top to hear Magic Quilt Stories and to act them out.