Fabric of my Life
My earliest memories come from living on farms and learning how to be frugal. We did not have garbage cans, for everything was used up or re-cycled. My parents learned from earlier generations and passed on traditions and wisdom to their children.
With a large family there was always a lot of food cooked daily. What was not eaten went into a pot, mixed up and simmered. This went to feed the family dog and the pig. Scraps of vegetables, like peelings, were tossed out in the chicken yard to be eaten by the chickens or given to the goats. Even clothes and scraps of fabric were never thrown out. Old clothes became scraps for quilts that kept us warm in winters, or strips of fabric went into braided rugs to cover cold hardwood floors. An excess of fabric was taken down the road to an elderly lady who made beautiful quilts that won prizes in the county fair and helped support herself. She would trade fruits grown on her property for the fabric.
I learned how to sew from my mother and made beautiful clothes for my children and myself. Scraps of fabric went into a box till I had enough to make a quilt or patchwork skirts and dresses. When my children were old enough to wear holes in their pants or other clothing, I patched those holes with brightly colored fabric scraps and they loved it. The more patches they had the happier they were to show them off. A pretty flower cut from a scrap of fabric became a prized patch for my daughter, a clown face patching a hole was cherished by my son. Scraps were the fabric of life for us, for it extended the use of things we needed.
I remember when us kids were little that Dad saved all his red flannel shirts. He loved red flannel. When the shirt became too worn he cut them into squares. These red flannel squares were used to put on our chests at night when we had bad colds. He would rub a salve on us then cover it with the red flannel. It was a comforting feeling and we slept well, knowing we were cared for. In old folk remedies, it is believed that red flannel has a healing energy in it and Dad firmly believed this.
When my Mother was sixty-two I started making a quilt for her. It took one year to complete. I cut squares of muslin and mailed them out to all my siblings to either embroider or draw a picture or message to Mom. When I got all the squares back I embroidered the ones that needed it and sewed them all together. I made a top panel embroidered with the words, “To Our Loving Mother and Grandmother”. The bottom panel has figures of us seven kids in straw hats, picking apples. I made all the kids from the same fabric, embroidered apples in a basket and flowers or toys. The symbolism of that panel is “We are all cut from the same cloth, bonded together with the same thread of life.”
We gave the quilt to Mom on Christmas day. All her children and several grandchildren were gathered around her when she opened the box. She was so happy and shed so many tears of joy. When Mom passed away years later the quilt came back to me. I cherish it as much as she did, for she kept it on her bed year round and it kept her warm and happy.
The fabric of my life is memories of love, sharing and caring.
© 2017 Phyllis Doyle Burns
Author’s Note: I will try to get a better photo of the quilt. It is very heavy and I had a heck of a time trying to hold it up and take a picture on my laptop.