a comfort quilt for mum :: Okan Arts
a comfort quilt for mum

a comfort quilt for mum


By Patricia Belyea

OTTAWA ON  For my mother’s 92nd birthday, I decided to make a really bright comfort quilt. One that would be perfect for Mum in her wheelchair. I dove into my scrap bin, where I store little bits of solids, to gather fabrics for the project.

Sewing the small pieces together, I made big blocks filled with a random assortment of color. I tipped the blocks on point and, along the edges, added triangles of yukata cotton with a playful floral motif. I used the same yukata cotton for the back of the quilt.

I pin basted the quilt sandwich together with Hobbs Heritage Natural Cotton Batting with Scrim. For fun I tested all the decorative stitches available from my 30-year old Bernina, using Aurifil 28wt. cotton thread. I chose a simple blanket stitch to crisscross the small quilt with a regular presser foot. In the final week before my trip to my hometown Ottawa, the Storm of the Century hit Seattle. That meant five days at home while three blizzards battered the city and dumped almost 10″ of snow. This storm impacted my quilt project in two ways.

First, I couldn’t go to the store to buy fleece or another soft fabric to line a planned muff pocket. (Don’t know what a muff is? It’s a tube pocket where you can put both hands for warmth.) I resolved the issue by cutting apart an old polar fleece jacket to glean fabric for the pocket lining.

Second, my basement flooded with the runoff of snow melt from our roof. I discovered the shallow lake when I headed downstairs to lay out the quilt, fresh from a tepid bath, for blocking. Michael and I spent two hours sucking up the water on the carpet with a wet-dry vacuum, and redirecting the downspouts outside. When I returned to the wet quilt, rolled up on a towel, I found that some of the dark solids had offset onto other areas of the top.The biggest area of damage was right where I planned to put the muff pocket. That was a blessing! Still, ten small patches of offset dye looked like bruises. I tried Grandma’s Secret and OxiClean but nothing changed.

I was in mourning for the happy quilt I had wanted to make. Now it just looked sad to me. For one full day, I was ready to give up.

My internal design director impelled me to use this setback as a way to do something unexpected—something I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. So I finished making the pocket—with daisy embroidery stitching and homemade bias-tape letters for my mum’s nickname Jane. Then I used the same silk-screened orange fabric to make ten wonky appliqué hearts to cover the ten problem spots.
Once I placed a few hearts on the quilt front, the composition went from lively to crazy busy. So the editor in me spoke up next and told me that I just had to live with the minimal offset damage. No added hearts.

I finished the quilt with a facing and label, and delivered it to Mum at her full-care home in Ottawa.
I’m not sure exactly what Mum thinks of her comfort quilt as full sentences are no longer in her repertoire. All I know is this: I did the best I could with heartfelt love. Happy Birthday, Mum!

POSTSCRIPT I pre-wash all fabrics before they go in my stash. So I was completely taken aback when some of the red-toned solids offset onto other fabrics. I presume that leaving everything wet and touching for two hours caused the unwelcome mess.

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53 comments to “a comfort quilt for mum”

  1. Susan Cavanaugh says:

    This warms my heart and I’m sure it warmed your mom’s too! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Susan Rush says:

    Beautiful

  3. Elizabeth Eisenhood says:

    This is a teaching story on many levels! Thank you for sharing your process of coping with accident and imperfection, and carrying on to completion. I’ guessing your mom’s spirit lives on in you.

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Elizabeth—I had forgotten about the power of imperfection. I have encouraged others to overcome imperfection but it is a tough lesson to learn. PB

  4. Janet C. Wright says:

    The “Made With Love” part –is the important part. The “muff” was a lovely idea. Once again your creativity kicked in for a special project.

  5. Marilynn D-R says:

    Even art projects have challenges we need to work through and you did an amazing piece of fiber art! Love it, so bright and happy.

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Marilynn—My preference is to work through a quilt difficulty and end up with something spectacular. Accepting imperfection was a real challenge for me. PB

  6. Paula Prominski says:

    What a beautiful gift for your mother. The colors are so bright and cheerful!

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Paula—Thanks for the compliment. I enjoyed putting together a wild palette, perhaps beyond anything I have attempted before. Scrap bins are good for that. PB

  7. K Jill Varnell says:

    What an amazing gift for Aunt Jane. I am so looking forward to seeing her this summer. In case you didnt know, I always resembled Aunt Jane more than my Mom. What a special place she has had in my life & continually in my heart.

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Jill—Great to hear from you. Although Mum has vascular dementia, she still has recognition of people she loves. And she’d love to see you. PB

  8. Kerry says:

    Happy birthday to your mum! I am so sorry to hear about the trials and tribulations that you had to go through to complete her special quilt. You definitely made colorful lemonade out of lemons! Congrats! The snowmageddon event in the Puget Sound left us without power for an extended period. Without a sewing machine, hand work is always welcome!

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Kerry—I will admit I was stupidly unhappy about the quilt damage. Once I regained my wisdom, I realized the important thing was to finish my project to the best of my ability. I hope you and your family stayed warm! PB

  9. Martha E Wacker says:

    Your quilt is beautiful, comforting and inspirational. I love the story. I have found RetroClean to be very effective in removing stains even rfom the most delicate old fabrics. I found it in a quilt shop on the east coast a couple of years ago. I order it now on Amazon Prime.

  10. Linda Petersensmith says:

    Thus story gave me such joy. Thank you for sharing it. Happy birthday to your mom!

  11. Adrienne says:

    When I saw the spotting, my immediate thought was that it made the material look like batik. No need to feel bad, it’s beautiful!

  12. Nicole says:

    I’m sorry to read of your mum’s decline – I remember meeting her at several quilt shows! The quilt looks cheerful and lovely. Good job.

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Nicole—I remember you as well. How lovely to hear from you! I hope you are doing well in Victoria and managing to squeeze in a little quilting in your busy life. PB

  13. JamieS says:

    This is what’s called a happy accident because it turned out beautifully.

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Jamie—It was an unhappy accident that had to be viewed as a happy accident as that was the only way forward. Thank you. P.

  14. LeeAnn says:

    Beautiful quilt and story. I love your innovation, making the best of all the obstacles. Surely it brightens the day for your mother and everyone who sees it.

  15. Janet C. Wright says:

    I love the idea of the “muff pocket” —especially this winter.

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Janet—When I was a kid, a rabbit fur muff on a silk cord was the most precious thing a girl could own. That would not be the case today! But muff pockets are pretty smart on comfort quilts. PB

  16. Janet Lynn Hasselblad says:

    It’s lovely! I made a beautiful floral quilt for my mom when she moved into a care facility. Sewing it was my therapy. Blessings.

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Janet—Point well made. Making this quilt was therapy for me as there is so little that I can do for my mum. Thank you. P.

  17. Donna D. says:

    Great quilt and story, P. Mothers see with love that smooths away all imperfections…

  18. Judy says:

    It is beautiful, Patricia. And your Mom will feel the love you have for her every time she uses it.
    Judy

  19. Quilting Jeannie Zimmerman says:

    A quilt from the heart. I bet she loves it because you made it, because it is so bright, and because it is so warm. Good job!

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Jeannie—When my mum was in her 80s, she made very colorful quilts. So I knew she was drawn to bright fabrics. Thanks for the encouragement. PB

  20. Sandra says:

    I’m sure your mother loved her quilt! My ceramics teacher used to say, “If you can’t fix it, feature it.” I try to prewash brighter colors with Synthrapol or blue Dawn liquid dishwashing soap to get rid of excess dye. And I think perfection is way overrated!
    Best to you and your mum.
    Sandra

  21. Enice Burke says:

    Your Mom’s quilt is lovely. I made one for my Mom as well she is 98 and in a wheelchair too. Caregivers say she will not leave her room without her quilt. .

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Enice—That’s a great reward for a quilter—to make a quilt that is that so important! How lovely that your mom loves her quilt. PB

  22. Judith lawrance says:

    What a sweet account of making the beautiful, cheerful quilt for your mum! She will get great comfort being literally covered with your love and and warmth!

  23. Carolyn Hanson says:

    BELIEVE IT OR NOT I HAVE MY MUFF POCKET ON A SILK CORD IN MY CEDAR CHEST. I REALLY LOVED WEARING IT. YOUR QUILT WAS MADE WITH LOVE AND I’M SURE MUM NEVER SAW THE IMPERFECTIONS.

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Carolyn—One of my sisters had a rabbit fur muff in my family. It was an enviable possession. Great to hear from you. PB

  24. Becki says:

    Lovely quilt and I loved your ‘changes’. Just as an fyi – I had red bleed over a white background and thought the piece was ready for the waste basket – however, I tried soaking it in Clorox 2 overnight and most of the next day – the red bleed came out and the rest looked just like new.

  25. Kathleen Flanagan says:

    I cried when I saw this as I started quilting for my mom’s 80th birthday. It is still one of my favorite quilts! Beginner’s luck!

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Kathleen—How wonderful that making a quilt for your mum got you quilting. My first quilt was for a gal in my office who was having a baby. PB

  26. Joan Sheehan says:

    Hello Patricia-Our Mum’s have similar issues, mine is 96. It warmed my heart to see the quilt, and I am inspired now to make one for Julie. Thank you for your wonderful posts!
    Joan

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Joan—Making my mum a quilt is the only thing I can really do for her these days. Best wishes on your mum project! PB

  27. Mary McFadden says:

    the quilt for Aunt Muriel is very beautiful, so glad it all worked out for you. Great that you could deliver it, love the work you do.