For as long as I can remember I have loved to sew. Some of my fondest memories are stitching a rainbow of colourful stitches onto huckaback in the 1st grade. The joy I felt is still with me. I didn’t want to ever stop sewing, and to be honest, I never have.
My grandmother, Bessie McKee had been a milliner in her younger years and she taught me all the needle crafts. Luckily for me she lived with us and I would sit with her as she stitched. My memory of her wearing her thimble as she hand-stitched a snippet of lace or ribbon is so very strong. Sadly, I don’t have anything of hers that she made but I do have the knowledge that she most generously shared with me.
We didn’t see my grandmother Evans very often as she lived in the country. I don’t recall ever seeing her sew, but she had always told me that she had made a patchwork quilt and that she wanted me to have after she had gone. The significance of this legacy was wasted on me until the first time I saw the quilt. It was love at first sight. A myriad of hexagons cut from the most delicious fabrics. The exquisite crepe de chine dress fabrics from the 1940’s stitched together to make a riot of colour.
The quilt was made around 1942/44, during the war years. Nan would have sewed at night by kerosene lantern after a hard day’s work on the family dairy farm. The fabrics had been swapped with the ladies of the area. As with many quilts made in Australia at the time, the quilt isn’t quilted. There is no batting and it is backed by the blackout fabric that was used to cover the windows at night during the war.
It is edged by a black hand-embroidered buttonhole stitch. These tiny stitches are so close that is would have taken my grandmother hours and hours to do, but I ‘get’ it. Nan, like me, never wanted to stop sewing. She really loved the process. It wasn’t about making a quilt. It was all about the sewing.
As promised, I did receive the quilt when my grandmother died in the 1980’s. At that time, although I loved to sew, and I stitched every day, I wasn’t a quilter. It wasn’t until 1992 that I made my first quilt.
My grandmother’s quilt is my most treasured possession. During bush fires it was the first thing I would pack. Now I keep it draped on the back of my lounge so I can enjoy it every day.
Both of my grandmothers live on in this wonderful legacy. My love of sewing is a tribute to both of them.
I am living a life that they both would have loved. Being able to sew every day and showing other women how to sew is a pure joy.
The threads that stitch my grandmothers’ lives to mine are a blessing.
Every day I give thanks to both of these beautiful women.