Tiny Stitches

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I started this quilt about 18 years ago when I was trying to get out of my fabric rut.  For non-quilters, that’s a rut of always using the same and favorite colors in my quilts – cranberry and forest green. The colors looked great every time I used them, but I was well and truly stuck in a rut. 

So, I went to my fabric stash and pulled a little bit of every fabric I had and began making this basket quilt – referred to as a “Postage Stamp” basket pattern due to the small size of the block – 4” finished.  I hadn’t worked on anything that small or with such a wide variety of fabrics.  The baskets were machine pieced and the handles were hand appliqued in place.  Once the blocks were made, I put them up on a design wall and played with the arrangement until I finally found the one I liked best.  I added a border to accent the lights and darks, “sandwiched” the quilt top with batting and backing, and then hand quilted it – another first for me.  

It took me ages to finish this quilt.  I enjoyed the whole process even the hand quilting. I was so proud of it I took it to Iowa on my next visit to show my grandma, Dorothy Miller.  She was a consummate seamstress and quilter, not to mention a fabulous baker and the namesake of my brother’s bakery, Grandma Miller’s Pies & Pastries.  I so wanted to show her my quilt.  Grandma looked it over with great interest and then finally said, “Oh, what tiny stitches”!  I glowed!!  I couldn’t have asked for any better compliment.  My stitches had started out big and clunky, but by the time I was quilting the border I had finally mastered the tiny stitch.  I was thrilled that Grandma had noticed!

As an Iowa farm wife, Grandma was proficient in all the homemaking skills especially sewing.  She made dresses for her two daughters from the feed sacks that a held the seeds for the field corn they grew.  The feed sack companies would add lovely cotton fabrics to their sacks in the early 1900’s specifically for the farm wives to use in their sewing projects – a great marketing technique!  Dresses, aprons, kitchen towels, curtains and the like, could all be made from the feed sack fabric.  So Grandma knew a thing or two about sewing!  She taught me to sew when I was 12 years old as I was heading into 8th grade.  I knew I would have sewing in Home Economics and I didn’t want to go into it without knowing anything!  Grandma even showed me how to make hand-sewn button holes for the top I made.  Very cool!!

In 2009, Grandma Dorothy Miller passed away and I miss her still.  I miss her phone calls on my birthday, cards at Christmas and occasional visits with her in Iowa or here in Vermont.  She always wanted to know how her bakery was doing, how her great-grand-daughter was growing and what I was sewing.  I have so many cherished memories of my grandma and visits to the farm, but none as sweet as the moment we shared over my quilt - just two seamstresses and quilters simply reflecting on my “tiny stitches”.