Monday, August 13, 2012
An Item Worth Saving: Update on the Farm Fire
Well, I guess it’s about official. The insurance company will declare the house a full loss and we will begin the process of identifying what that included.
Of all the physical “things” I loved in the house, the quilts were at the top of the list. Somehow people on the scene seemed to know that. The firemen handed me two quilts, still smoking and wet, while they worked the fire.
I thought I’d lost the others, but the next morning I went back to see if I could get the most important one off the bed. I peered into the bedroom and saw a blackened quilt covered with mounds of fiberglass insulation and half the bedroom ceiling. It took three hours with a pitchfork to clear it off and eventually pull it off. What a hopeless mess.
On that first day, I wasn’t thinking of possible restorers. My mind had sprung a cog anyway. All I could think was to save quilts the old fashioned way – wash them. So I took them to the car wash, draped four quilts over the car and turned on the high pressure wash. At home, I soaked them in the bathtub overnight and then washed each one several times in the machine.
When dry, they still smelled like smoke and were badly stained. I gave them to the cleaner to try his magic this morning – a full eight days after the fire.
The story of the “number one” quilt is a sweet one. It was a cream, whole-cloth quilt that my mother and I started together. It was the first quilt I had ever marked and we put it into a small lap frame Mom had found at a quilt show. The big one confused her and she had given up on quilting.
We were able to get it stretched and she had wonderful ideas to quilt the leaves with green thread, the doves with blue, etc. A couple of weeks after she started the quilting, she passed away.
I was a mess for months after and to relieve the pain and grief, I taught myself to hand quilt on that same quilt, so I added my clumsy beginning stitches to her wrinkles and knots. After a zillion hours of that (it was a huge quilt) I admitted that I simply didn’t have the time to hand quilt and put the project into a bag.
A mouse took a bite or two.
It became a little jumbled.
But when I bought my longarm quilting machine, the whole-cloth was the first quilt stretched to quilt. I proceeded to learn through trial and error and when I pulled it off to bind it, I was in love with it. There couldn’t be more mistakes on a single quilt, but it represents my mother’s last stitches, my first hand quilting stitches, and the first of hundreds of quilts to follow.
When it comes home from the cleaners, that quilt will probably still be stained, but I will still love it and I can now add another phrase to the story - - that quilt survived the fire.