Clara Dugas, NS
Gifts from my Mother:
A Quilt Story by
Inspired by The Quiltmaker's Gift by Jeff Brumbeau
Jeff Brumbeau 's story, "The Ouiltmaker's Gift", reminds me of my mother's love of quilting and her unselfish love for her children. Like the woman in the story, she knew how to quilt and she had the gift of giving to her children, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren.
My piece is appliquéd - reminders of all that was precious in the art of quiltmaking in my childhood .........
Manual (pedal) Sewing machine
Smooth silky thread
Welcoming "5& 10 cents" stores
Warm Cozy Homes
For as long as I can remember, each winter our mother had a quilt in the frames, one of those old clumsy wooden frames. The quilt was rolled on two long pieces of wood. Pegs were used to keep the quilt tight. Mother had her quilt frame in one corner of the parlour. She could watch television as she quilted.
As a little girl, I enjoyed watching her poke the needle under and up through the quilt, working tirelessly for hours each evening, her thumb and index fingers pricked and calloused. I must have been ten years old when she first invited me to join her. "Here's a needle. show you how to do it. You can help me," she said with a smile. At first my stitches were large and uneven but she praised me and encouraged me. I enjoyed it from the very beginning.
"You are good at this Clara." She was pleased that I enjoyed it. For years I helped her quilt many of her masterpieces - some given away for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, new babies or for our own beds. Cuddled underneath the quilts, we could touch and look at recycled pieces of clothing that had belonged to aunts, grandmothers, cousins, or maybe even our own clothing, a story every one.
As the years passed, Mother accumulated chests of quilts. One day she led me upstairs. We walked in the attic. She opened a chest. It was filled with neatly folded quilts, a kaleidoscope of colours. She asked me to please take a quilt, any one. "This one", she said as she pulled one out, "has a flaw". She showed me where she had traced the pattern by mistake with a permanent marker. A pretty blue and rose coloured pattern, the "mistake" was un-removable. However, it was perfect for my bed. I took my mother's last finished quilt with pride.
In the winter of 1997 mother was 82 years old. She had a quilt in the frames as usual. Now upstairs with a small TV besides her, she quilted as she watched the soap operas each afternoon. By March, Mother had pneumonia followed by a heart attack. The quilt lay in the frames unfinished.
In July I went to help care for her. In the afternoons I would go upstairs and quilt while Mother napped. One day she said to me, "You know, the person who finishes the quilt gets to keep it." I knew to would be me. She knew it would be her last.
Mother died that August, a week after her 83rd birthday, her quilt still unfinished. Her absence was a dark presence in the house. At times when I so deeply longed for her smell, her laughter, when I missed her most, I went upstairs to work on the unfinished quilt. Alone and sad, tears sometimes fell and smeared the soft yellows and flowered patterns. Knowing that each one of Mother's quilts had been a labour of love made quilting this particular quilt a gift of healing for me. I could feel her loving hands in every stitch I made.
My only son married in 2004. I gave him the finished quilt - a wedding gift from his grandmother, the Quilt Maker and his mother, myself, hopefully another quilt maker.