A Gift of Love
Making my Mom’s Christmas gift started in June….or more accurately in 1890.
I was visiting my sister in NH while back east for the Vermont Quilt Festival, 2015. She told me there was some silk in the "family stuff" that I should have. I come from a family that has saved items…silver, china, furniture, portraits, fabric, etc… for generations.
Three hours later we emerged from her basement. I was piled up with several boxes of fabric, including the fabric we went looking for. One of the boxes, an old box from Frankberger & Co., Charleston, W. Va., held beautiful green plaid silk made up as a skirt for a ball dress. ( To find out more about Frankenberger & Co. )
A few days later I went to see my 88 year old Mother. I told her of the fabric we found. My Mother’s eyes lit up when I told her about the green silk skirt. She told me her grandmother, born in 1863, had bought 2 bolts of the fabric. The first item made from it was a dress for a Civil War re-enactment. The final item made was a dress for her to wear at a dance when she was a teenager. “I loved that dress,” she said. It was a 3 tiered, gathered skirt on a dark green velvet bodice, with a drawstring hand bag to match the skirt.
So, I began to hatch a plan. I had to make something for my Mother for Christmas from it.
I didn’t know how old the silk was at this point. It tore if you pulled on it, but it was still workable. I decided to make a pillow…more for decoration than for real use.
I chose the pattern, Rose, 2 of 9. I considered time and the fabric when determining whether I would make it by hand or machine. I thought by machine, because the fusible would give the fabric a little more integrity. I found a fat quarter of red Dupioni silk in my stash for the background.
I traced my pattern, fused the fabric and began to cut carefully. Then I fused the cut top onto the red silk, and layered it with my batting. I mumbled a prayer as I stitched a small section, hoping the needle would not cut the fabric and cause it to tear. It didn’t. I satin stitched the cut edges and then quilted along the plaid lines of the silk.
I layered the pillow back with batting as well and quilted it. Again thinking it would give the fabric stability. I piped the pillow and flipped it right-side out. I carefully stuffed it…but not quite carefully enough. The stretching of the fabric while stuffing it with the pillow form did cause a few small tears, as well as a few spots where my fingernails poked the taut fabric. I was disappointed, but I knew it wouldn’t matter to my Mother. They aren’t very noticeable, and she will be touched by the love of the gift.
After I made the gift, I dug down deeper in the box. Underneath the bottom sheet that the silk was wrapped in, was a flat bundle wrapped in sheeting with a note written in my Mother’s hand pinned to it. (This is the way of all of my family treasures)
The note said, “Whoever has the green plaid evening dress, here is the remainder of the material and the evening bag to match. Fabric from 1890.”