Hand made things had to be useful on a farm in North Dakota in the early 1900s; like so many other women of her generation, Mary Jane McFadden spent her time making quilts and clothing to keep her children warm. But as the children grew, as the boys left home and the girls learned to sew their own clothes, her heart yearned to make something pretty; something that was every bit as decorative as it was useful.
All her life, she'd saved scraps; bits of wool and cotton, mostly, but here and there a piece of velvet, satin or silk had come her way. As she sorted through them, she found remnants of the dress Pearl took her first steps in, Effie's high school graduation gown (the first in her family to finish high school), generations of trousers for the boys, and her own wedding dress.
She took out the largest pieces of muslin she could find, and began piecing a crazy quilt on them. On it, she appliqued initials and other symbols that held special meanings for her; she used every scrap of beauty that had ever come her way. Although she died before she finished her quilt of many colors, it was a labor of love, done just to please her own eyes.
Many, many years later, when little Effie was a grandmother herself, she gave the unfinished quilt to her eldest granddaughter. They worked on it together; carefully finishing the quilting with fancy embroidery stitches and repairing the frayed edges with scraps from their own lives.
© 2008 Cynthia Newcomer Daniel
Sterling silver, iolite, citrine, freshwater pearls, and seed bead embroidered collar with lampwork by Lisa Atchison of Touch of Glass Designs. Hand fabricated.