I started sewing these half-square triangle blocks on a dark and dreary March morning. I needed to work on something summery. Within a moment of putting just a few blocks together, I knew this quilt would be for my sister who was born on the Fourth of July. If you follow me on Instagram, you might remember when I posted this picture. It reminded me of when we would watch Chiller Theater, a local television program which featured scary movies. The opening of the show featured a cartoon hand coming out of the ground. So I laughed when I took this picture - obviously it was a sign.
I continued sewing every dark morning until the square measured 45". It wasn't done and it needed something else so I thought I'd just go ahead with a border, but that was pretty blah. Bonfires popped into my head. I mixed up the old adage - where there's smoke there's fire - and started a little deconstruction. The quilt changed direction just a bit - just like smoke from a fire - and that's when all the memories of July 4th past came flooding back and I knew what had to be done to make it complete.
Our family lived on Long Island Sound - the body of water between New York and Connecticut - during the summer. Our Independence Day ritual included building a bonfire from driftwood and beach chairs that did not survive winter, and lighting the fire just as the sun had set. On a clear night we could see the fires and fireworks on the Connecticut shoreline.
Sometimes you couldn't. Even the darkest July sky can can get a little pale with all that smoke from all those fires. I felt I had to add lighter blocks to the upper left corner to indicate this. Only then did I feel the top was complete.
I took a gamble with machine quilting. I think between that and the all-cotton fabrics and batting that I used, the quilt shrank quite a bit.
The top measured 55.5" square, but after washing and drying, it is now 53". Still, it is a good size to cover yourself if it is a freakishly cold July.
Like all that smoke from a the bonfires years ago, the quilt made its journey across Long Island Sound this week to my sister. She called to thank me today and we had a nice talk about all those fires years ago. Now, I have this vision of her sitting with her one-year old grandson, watching fireworks, and wrapping him in the quilt if the noise gets too loud or the night too cold.
So here's a funny story. When I was due to arrive the same day but a few years later, my parents decided not to light their fire until I was born. Apparently my mother went into labor on July 4th and our neighbors went ahead and lit the fire. It was a false alarm. I made my grand entrance a week later when my mother was having her hair done. No fires or fireworks for my arrival, but every year on my birthday, I feel like I should get my hair cut or have a manicure. One year I got my my drivers license renewed.
Every quilt has a story, whether we realize it or not. The story may begin when you cut that first piece of fabric, or maybe before you were even born. Quilts make great memories live again, and they can make new memories too.
Have a safe and happy July 4th!