Tuesday, November 9, 2010

ABC: Letter Q for quilts

Radhi is a good friend and neighbour in Singapore. She is a Datin, it is a title as the wife of Dato Khoo Kay Kim. These titles are honoured to them in Malaysia like the Queen honouring her subjects.

I admire her for her skills in quilting, her artistic flair, and her gardening. Her house appeared in the Malaysian version of Home and Gardens. Her husband is a renowned Malaysian Historian.

This photo was taken when we were still in Singapore. You can tell I was quite young then. It could have been 2000. We were living in identical university apartments. But the similarites end her. Hers was nicely cheorographed. Mine was an apartment with kids.


This post, I had posted before. I want to post it again because it is my story with my grandma.
We didn't live with my maternal Grandma, she came to visit frequently and to help Mum when she gave birth to my younger siblings. She came to cook for Mum's confinement month, that is the whole month after a woman had her baby.

Grandma made one patchwork quilt for each of her three daughters. As a kid, my immediate younger sister Margaret and I had fun looking for her Chinese stars. Her stars were very unusual. It has 21 pieces of tiny squares and triangles cleverly stitched together. She didn't make many stars as it was very difficult to make.

In 1975, my nephew Wayne was born. Grandma came to visit. Sister Elizabeth requested her to make a patchwork for her first great grand son. Grandma was hesitant. Her heart wanted to make it, but her head told her that she was in her 80s, it would be impossible to make one as she was just visiting Elizabeth.

I told her, "I will help you."

So we did, grandma and grand daughter pair. She did the cutting and supervision, and I went on my mum's old manual Singer machine.

"Not so fast, Not so fast," she kept telling me.

But I went went ziz, ziz, ziz, ziz as I pedaled along. She admonished my 'fast hand, fast leg'. I had commited myself to help her, I didn't have 6 months to help her. Times I made a mistake, she wanted me to unpick it.

I said," No way, it is only for a baby."

We finished the quilt in a matter of days. I blackmailed Wayne, because he is the only great grand child that Grandma made a quilt for.

Despite the hectic time, I learnt an invaluable skill. I could make a Chinese patchwork quilt. At that time, I vowed that I will never make another one, too old fashion. Now, I am glad, because I am probably the only grand daughter of hers who has inherited her skill.

Fast forward to 1990, I saw my good friend O's light blue quilt on her bed. It was so beautiful, I was reminded of my grandma's quilts. I came home, and made a quilt for D. I made nine Chinese stars, and the rest, I basically used squares. I made this queen size Chinese quilt in 3 days over the weekend. I didn't have much sleep. This time ziz, ziz, ziz, ziz on my electric Janome machine was reminscent of the time with grandma.

The water engineer was a gem, he babysat D 5, and G 2. He took the girls shopping at Farmers Trading Company for D to choose a backing for her quilt. She chose a lemon colour and I asked her why she didn't choose a pink.

The reason why I sewed frantically was I had to vacate my sewing room. Our friend J was coming to stay with us. He was our very good friend, and was an Engineering post graduate student with the water engineer at Auckland University.

D still has that quilt. I told her not to use it. It is unlikely that I will ever make another one. (Who knows, may be when I become a grandma, I may do it.) She wanted to frame it, I told her it was too big, not until she was successful in her career and has her own big house.

***This is the quilt I made for D, you have to look carefully for the stars. You will understand when my sister Margaret and I had fun looking for them.***


Ginny Hartzler said...

What a wonderful story of your quilting with your grandmother!! You made this queen size quilt in three days??? I've never heard of such a thing, how can it be? You have to cut out the little squares and such first, so much to do before sewing!! It is so very pretty!! I bet you could make quilts very fast and make a lot of money selling them! But it might burn out your nerves and you would loose sleep!

Rajesh said...

Very beautiful quilts. Even my grandma was used to make them for home usage.

VioletSky said...

you must have worked like a possessed maniac!
I've always thought of quilting as a most finicky art - but with the most beautiful outcome. These are lovely, and a lovely memory to go with them.

Roger Owen Green said...

wonderful story. i would not have had the patience either; as a result, i cannot quilt.

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Gattina said...

I agree with Roger ! I love quilts but could never make them !

Cezar and Léia said...

She has such a lovely smile and for sure a creative soul and talent hands to make beautiful quilts!
Thanks for sharing this story!

penny said...

Quilts are beautiful pieces of art. Hours and hours of loving hand work.
Lovely post, Ann.

Betsy Banks Adams said...

Oh how I love your post today, Ann... I never learned to quilt ---so I am glad that you did. I do have one of my mother's quilts --and I cherish it.

Aren't you glad you have the memories of quilting with your grandmother? I'm glad you learned to make the Chinese star... SO GORGEOUS.

Thanks for sharing.

Elaine Yim said...

Despite the modern quilt designs they have today, it is your quilt in the last picture that has moved me. It brings back a lot of memories for me too. My grandma would make a blanket quilt just like that one for each of her grandkids. I can still remember the cosy blanket made from the unwanted cloth edgings from tailor shops. It was cool during hot days but warm when nights were cold. I don't have it anymore but I have always thought of making one again.

Sylvia K said...

Wonderful story of quilting with your Grandmother, Ann! And such lovely quilts! Great post for the Q Day! Hope you're enjoying your week so far!


Carver said...

Beautiful quilts and I love your stories. Great memories.

George said...

Thanks for sharing the story of making quilts with your grandmother. You must have learned quite a bit from the experience since you later made a quilt on your own. The quilts you pictured are beautiful.

Francisca said...

These are super stories Anne, of your friend the Datin, of you with your grandmother quilting, of you making one for D. I can't believe you told D she shouldn't use the quilt you made her though... your culture really shines through... :-D

photowannabe said...

A beautiful story about your quilts. I think the quilts are a wonderful traditional keepsake. Sometimes we really only appreciate them when we get older. Good post for Q.

Jama said...

I love looking at quilts but really have not patience with sewing!

Unknown said...

Ann, thank you so much for your Quilt blog with its wonderful stories of friends and your grandmother. I would love to know how to make a Chinese star.
HelenMac, ABC team

Anonymous said...

Wow - that quilt on the wall is astounding! So beautiful.