So I was all set to be funny and flippant about my family tree quilt, then I came across this quote. And it is perfect. And thoughtful. And deep. And not funny or flippant at all. But I wanted to include it in this blog post as it’s so appropriate and now I need to find some way to include it as part of my quilt.
Which I am now posting about it… as it is finished! Well as finished as a family tree quilt can be – more like a little snapshot of how our family looked in 2013. The leaves will change with new generations but this’ll be a nice momento of how our motley bunch looked at this point of time.
My grandmother turns 90 this year. This is going to be one of her birthday gifts from the family. Buying gifts for a 90 year old is hard – but I think this works. It’s been a bit of a test of my patience and creativity, but I think I have risen to the challenge and I am happy, nay, thrilled with the result!
It started with this. And I mean, not just this quilt, but our whole family. Started with this little snippet of a love letter that my grandfather wrote to my grandmother when they were first dating.
It reads: “we are going to get engaged, and then Married, and live happily ever after – now don’t you think that is a Swell Romance Story. Well Pat dearest, I will have to close.”
I used this romantic snippet and made it into a repeat graphic, popped over to Spoonflower and tada – beautiful, sentimental and very personalised fabric.
That is the background for our family tree. Appropriate in more ways than one, don’t you think? My Nan has lived double the lifespan that my Grandfather did – he died at age 44 of lung cancer. My mum was 16. So my generation has never met him, but we know a lot about him and he was a wonderful man. To be able to include him in such a way in this family tree quilt is really special.
So from there, the idea of the family tree quilt took off. I went from ideas of a photo quilt, a scrapbook-y memory quilt (featuring doilies made by my nan and great-grandmother) til I finally settled on a literal interpretation of a family tree.
I loosely used the tree layout from the Don’t Look Now pattern – though my tree has a lot less leaves and birds than the pattern! Then it was a case of lots of embroidery, fusible webbing, careful cutting and raw edge applique. And possibly there were at least three different layouts of leaves before I settled on this – rough groups of leaves in to family groups, rather than a more random scattered look like I first planned.
I added in a little birdie – partly because there was a gap in my leaves and partly because I think it adds a really nice touch of whimsy.
For a little more family history, I added a little “ribbon” of family tartan (made of real tartan fabric ordered from Ireland by my aunt) around the trunk of the tree.
The hard work was complete. Then I had the worry of… do I quilt this? How do I quilt this? How do I prepare this to be a decent piece of wall art?
Well thanks to Gemma (of Pretty Bobbins) who recently used a canvas for her wall art… my dilemma was solved. I just had to get brave and use a staple gun without taking out an eye, or stapling my fingers to the floor. Proud to say I achieved it, all body parts still intact.
I found the perfect sized canvas (36” square) though I did need to add a little bit of fabric to the top and bottom to make it long enough to wrap around to be stapled on the back. I triple stitched those strips of fabric on in hopes it’ll help maintain the integrity of the fabric where it’s stretched a little. I didn’t tighten it too much as I didn’t want to distort the applique work. I added a layer of batting underneath the quilt (to protect in case there are weird chemicals on the canvas - who knows? I'm new to this!). Oh and the corners aren’t perfect (they are hard!!!) but they’re okay.
My problem now is it looks so good on my dining room wall I don’t want to take it down! I think I may leave it there until the 90th party in a few weeks so I can admire it in the meantime.
Oh and those squares on the table there? That’s the rest of Nan’s birthday present. Signature squares signed by friends and family around the country. I’ll be putting those together this afternoon into a lap quilt for Nan. I think she’ll really enjoy reading them while she stays warm under this quilt! I will post more about that and share some of the fabulous squares (and there are some creative ones in there!) when I get the quilt finished.
For now, I’m going to go and enjoy my new wall art. And plan up some more wallhangings for my staple gun and I to work on together.