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Monday, December 23, 2013


Christmas Tree Quilt
Barbara Graham returns for a visit today. Barbara began making up stories in the third grade. Her motto is “every story needs a dead body and every bed needs a quilt”. A prize-winning quilter, she enjoys combining her fabric addiction with her predilection for telling tall tales. She continues to be intrigued by the problems and situations her imaginary friends manage to get themselves into and refuses to accept any blame for their actions. Learn more about Barbara and her books at her website. 

In my home, Christmas preparations begin the day after Thanksgiving with the hanging of the Christmas quilts. It is a tradition as firmly set as blowing out candles on a birthday cake. That’s just what happens in my home. The quilts themselves have stories. (Pardon the poor photographs)

The first quilt is homely. An experiment made by an inexperienced quilter. No matter—it’s a Christmas quilt. Slap it up on the wall. Always in the same place.

Wreath Quilt
The wreath quilt has some sparkly jewels glued onto the holly shaped leaves. Not bad, not good. It must hang near the tree. That’s where it belongs. No negotiation.

Snowman Quilt
Goofy snowmen march tirelessly over the couch. It was once a class project involving striped fabrics. Everyone else picked beautiful, elegant stripes, nope, not for me—snowmen.

And the last, the largest and the one that matters most is The Christmas Tree quilt. It hangs on the wall just inside our front door. It is always the background for holiday photos, the boys growing into men. The dog of the era. A procession of them. Add in a daughter-in-law, and later a grandbaby. It’s not the quilt that matters but the memories, both good and bad, that having it hanging there releases. Like the aroma of pine, there is a whiff of sadness. I worked on the holly shapes that form the branches for a long time but many of them on a trip my mom and I took after my dad died. Pushing the needle through the fabric by hand, trying to make nice sharp points—some better than others, grief and laughter combined.

And the laughter continues. I quilted it by hand and was teased mercilessly. It took me years because I only worked on it for a little while each year—October to December. I took it to quilt retreat every fall and my friends mocked me for bringing it so many times. I amassed a huge collection of jingle bells in all sizes, and colors; some I bought and some were donated to me by friends thinking I might not have enough. I did. I had enough to cover the quilt and still supply everyone in the state with a bell.

Like writing a book or making a quilt, the fragments are rearranged, some discarded, new ones added. The characters are growing older and new ones are added, but the quilt is loved, not because it’s beautiful, but because it belongs to a family. This guardian of tradition will, someday, hang in a different house, but for now it still welcomes the holiday in mine and waits until the end of January to be taken down and carefully folded, obliquely rather than in a tidy rectangle, and the bells jingle as it is returned to its home in the closet. Until Thanksgiving.

Murder by Sunlight: The Charity Quilt, book 5 in the Quilted Mystery series. Crimes heat up tiny Park County, Tennessee. A corpse in a tree signals the beginning of an onslaught of murder, mischief and mayhem. Sheriff Tony Abernathy and his small staff are overworked. His wife, Theo, a quilt shop owner, is drawn into the hunt for clues—not just the ones in her mystery quilt (pattern included).

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Angela Adams said...

The quilts are beautiful...and, they remind me of my grandmother. She loved making quilts. Happy Holidays!!

Maggie Toussaint said...

What a wonderful way to wrap up your family Christmas quilt traditions. Your home must feel quite cozy with such treasures and heirlooms all around.

Wishing you all the best, Maggie

Patricia Stoltey said...

Barbara, those quilts are wonderful. I never had the patience for quilting, but I love the way they look and always visit the big quilting show they have down here in Northern Colorado, envying the talent and commitment that goes into the art. Thanks for a wonderful post.

Claire said...

The stories behind the quilts are as important as the quilts themselves. What a wonderful tradition - thank you for sharing it with us.

Barbara Graham said...

I am sorry to be late checking in. Almost no internet service and playing with the grandchildren have conspired against me. Thank you for your kind comments and Happy New Year!