My mother has always enjoyed and excelled at all kinds of handwork. She sewed, knitted, crocheted, and in the seventies, she even did some groovy macramé. In the early ’90s, around the time her first grandchild was born, she became a quilter. She was particularly suited to this handcraft because it requires an artful eye and the careful precision with which she approached every task she ever undertook.
After my grandmother passed away, my mother found a quilt top among her mother’s belongings. My grandmother and great-grandmother had pieced it but had not gotten around to quilting it. Mom thought that it would be really special if she and her daughters could finish this vintage family quilt together. Unfortunately, while we did learn many things about homemaking from my mother, none of us were particularly interested or proficient at handwork.
However, we did not want to disappoint my mom, so we agreed to give it a go. As my sisters, mother, and I sat around the quilt, I struggled to make small and even stitches, not wanting to screw up this precious family heirloom. After we had quilted for a couple of hours, we decided to take a break and have a snack. When I started to stand up, to my horror, I realized that I had stitched the quilt to my skirt! At that point, Mom had to concede that I was not going to follow in her footsteps as a quilter. She reluctantly finished that vintage quilt by herself. She went on to make dozens of other beautiful quilts, creating gorgeous handmade keepsakes for all of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
My talented mother turned 80 this year, so my sisters and I decided to throw her a quilt-themed party to celebrate her birthday and to honor her legacy of quilts. One of my sisters, who used to be a graphic designer, created an invitation, and we asked everyone to bring their Mom-made quilts to display at the party.
I then set about creating theme-appropriate decorations for the party. The first thing I made was this embroidery hoop and quilt square wreath for the front door. I ordered the hoops from Amazon and, since we know I don’t quilt, I ordered the Dresden Plate quilt blocks from PokeSallet on Etsy.
I decided to use wooden spools in a variety of ways to further the theme. To make them colorful, I glued patterned origami paper to each spool. I strung about two dozen of these on a ribbon and festooned the area above the buffet with this quirky spool garland.
I glued wire cardholders to the inside of some taller, thinner spools to make photo stands. I made copies of pictures of my mother throughout her life and displayed them on the buffet. I also found some antique industrial spools that I decided to use as bud vases.
I wanted to make a sewing-themed flower arrangement for the buffet, so I used a wooden sewing box that my mother had given me years ago when I was making a lot of draperies and pillows for my home. The box opens up and has all kinds of compartments, and I thought it would be interesting to fill each of the areas with bud vases containing a different flower.
Of course, the cake also had to have a quilt theme. I knew I wanted to use fondant because it could be cut into exact shapes. I never used fondant before, and I don’t particularly like its taste or consistency, so I did not want to cover the whole cake with the stuff. I iced the cake with buttercream and then attempted to apply fondant to the sides of each tier. This technique met with limited success as the weight of the fondant caused the sides of the cake to kind of slump down in places.
My sisters helped me laboriously cut out the dozens of triangles and buttons which make up the quilt pattern. As we worked, we discovered that fondant is sticky and stretches, to begin with, and then dries out and hardens rapidly, making it necessary to work quickly. We also confirmed that none of us are mathematicians, as our pattern did not come out evenly. Needless to say, we were pretty punchy when we came up with the idea of “the placard.” The placard was a rectangular strip of fondant that we decorated with a row of buttons and used to cover up the seam of each tier’s “quilted” band where the pattern did not match up. (You will not see the infamous placard because we turned it to the back to hide our shame.)
Overall the Buttons and Bows quilt pattern worked pretty well, and I don’t think any of the guests noticed that it was a bit lopsided or that the placard was not intentional, but being my mother’s daughter, I was not pleased by the lack of precision.
One of my sisters made these perfectly decorated quilt square sugar cookies which we gave as a favor to all the guests.
As an activity, we provided paper templates and asked the guests to color their own decorated quilt square with a personalized message for my mother. We will “sew” the squares together and present it to Mom as a group card from the attendees.
I hosted the party, but all three of my sisters and my daughters contributed to the event by providing food, beverages, flower arrangements for the tables, and a great deal of help setting up and putting the cake together. This event was truly a group effort for our mother/grandmother, who taught us so many lessons and gave us the incalculable gift of her love and affection.
I know that my mother was disappointed that I did not have the ability to be a quilter, but I would remind her that she did not start quilting until she was a grandmother. So, maybe there is hope for me yet–as long as I keep the material away from my skirt.
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