What do you give the woman who gave you the gift of sewing for her 90th birthday? A rainbow word quilt, of course! Last year my Nana celebrated her 90th birthday and to mark the occasion my family decided to make her a quilt. (Well, I made the quilt they just supplied the funding for the materials.) I’d been busting to make a word quilt for ages and this seemed like the perfect excuse for making one because I couldn’t decide on a quilt block pattern I liked and as usual we’d left everything to the last minute!
I suggested that we all pick one word (no more than 6 letters) to represent what we thought of when we thought of her. In my head I thought it would be a quilt filled with words like love, faith, happy, etc. Rookie mistake! I forgot who I was dealing with. This is my family and the smart arse gene is strong. Not only did I end up with words that appear to be so random and nonsensical I also ended up with words that were all greater than 6 letters! (With the exception of my Brother’s word of choice.)
My Nana was in the process of moving out of her retirement home and into an assisted living facility when I was making the quilt. She was going into an environment that’s pretty stark and she wasn’t allowed to bring a lot of personal stuff with her and so a big bright scrappy quilt seemed like the perfect thing to give her to brighten her room. It also meant I didn’t have to try and decided on a colour palette or fabric line – I could do what I do best; rainbow scrappy.
In less than 24 hours we had narrowed our word selection down and I was making letters. It came together so quickly and it’s HUGE. Perfect for covering her up in that hospital style bed. Raylee (of Sunflower Quilting) quilted the quilt in super record time so I could deliver it to my Nana at her birthday party. The texture on this quilt is sooooo good. I ended up doing the binding in Black Kona Cotton because I wanted something that would wear well as it was going to be dragged on the floor and put through industrial washing machines.
I used fabrics in this quilt that all have a meaning in our family to accompany the words. Here’s a bit of insight into why we picked the words we did and what the fabrics mean:
SUITCASE: This was my Dad’s word and refers to a little in-joke he and my Nana have. My Nana used to stay at our house a lot when I was a kid/teenager. She didn’t have a lot of material things or little luxuries in her own home and so when she’d come to spend time with us my family was always leading her astray. My Dad liked to drink Port (with a mint slice biscuit) after dinner and would always ask her if she’d like a “suitcase” after dinner. (In Queensland “port” is another word for bag, usually a small bag.) This played on both the word port and the size of the drink (it wasn’t small).
The fabrics in this section represent a mix of patterns that remind me of dresses she wore. There’s cherries and apples in there because she always loves a good bit of fresh fruit. There’s the name of her only grandchild from our family and “I love you” text print. There’s chickens because when I was first born she had the world’s biggest chicken coop.
WHIPLASH: This is my word. When I was 16 and learning to drive I took my Mum, brother and Nana for a drive to the shops. I managed to bunny hop our car (it was a manual/stick) down the driveway (before we’d even left our yard) and when I got to the end of the driveway I heard this tiny voice pipe up from the backseat and say “Oh Ange, I think I have whiplash”. I turned to see my Nana holding her neck and chuckling. It cracked us all up. To this day it still cracks us all up. Old butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth Nana.
The fabrics in this section represent a mic of patterns that remind me of dress she wore. There’s apples and oranges in there because she always loves a good bit of fresh fruit. The scissors are because she used to sew for me and gave me my first sewing machine. There’s cat’s in there because I used to have a cat that was the devil’s spawn and it had a particular fondness for attacking her when she was visiting. There’s Australia because she’s proudly Australian.
CURLER: This is my Brother’s word. He chose this because when he was all of 3 or 4 my Nana was staying with us and she used to have a tight perm. We were going out for lunch and my Nana was getting ready by setting her curls. My brother was intrigued and asked if he could wear one of her curlers. She obliged (because she’s an awesome Nana) and put one in the front of his hair. Time came to go out to lunch and he refused to take it out. Refused. So he went to lunch with it in his hair. It still makes her laugh when she talks about it.
The fabrics in this section include Tula Pink’s stag pattern (because one of my Brother’s nicknames is Buck), a print of all household chores (my Nana was a school cleaner for a bit and she had 7 kids to raise. She also had the scariest washing machine (a wringer or mangle I think it’s called) I’ve ever known for the longest time and it used to freak me out as a kid.), there’s ice-cream vans because we share a memory with her and our Granddad that involves the world’s biggest ice-creams that should probably never have been given to kids. There’s measuring tapes and sewing notions to represent her sewing. There’s some of my precious Heather Ross gnomes, because… me. There’s cats for the satan cat. There’s flowers because she loves flowers, and there’s mermaids to represent our family’s involvement with water.
RESPECT: This is HUBBY’s word (the big suck up). He missed the memo that we were all going to take the piss and went with something rather nice and special. He said this is what he thinks of when he thinks of my Nana.
The fabrics in this section represent all the years she lived in Mount Isa (it’s a mining town and I thought Lizzy House gems would be good for that), the Waratah is a rugby league dig (she’s a mad keen Queensland supporter and as a teenager I backed NSW (Waratah is their state flower) just to get under her skin), the bicycles represent the bike she used to use to get every where (she never learned to drive), the tea party fabric for all the times she played with me as a kid, and the bees for her garden.
ADOPTED: This is my Mum’s word. My Mum is one of seven kids (4 boys and 3 girls) and it’s a running joke between her and her Mum (my Nana) that my Mum is adopted. (As in “Please Mum, tell me I’m adopted.”) She’s not adopted and it makes my Nan laugh when we talk all talk about it.
The fabrics in this section represent my Mother (Rapunzel with her long blonde hair, which my Mum had as a teenager), marine life (my parents business involves marine life), the seven dwarves (a representation of all the kids), dinosaurs (because our Little Man is dinosaur mad), magpies (because my Mum loves them and there’s family folklore about it), budgies (because this is a joke between my Mum and I) and Erik the Viking to represent one of my cousins.
PANSIES: This is my Sister-in-Law’s word. It reminds her of the time she spent with my Nana in her garden sharing gardening tips and talks. Purple was the weakest section of my stash and so the fabrics in this section represent my Nana’s cooking, her garden and the dog she had when we were kids.
MUM + NANA: This is to represent the names we call her. I used the saint fabric from Alexander Henry to represent my Nana’s strong Catholic faith and the fact that most of us believe she’s a saint. There’s fabric to represent her sewing, her clothes, her bicycle riding, her love of our dogs and the scooters represent all the motorcycle loving boys in our family (and the crazy times she’s been on a motorbike because one of the boys or my aunt convinced her to do it – like the Harley Davidson ride she had on her 90th!).
This is my Nan and I together in front of the quilt at her birthday party last year. I’m so lucky to be 40 and still have my Nan. I’m also really lucky that all through my life my Nana was there for me. She’s always been a strong fixture in our lives and I’m so grateful that I was able to make something that represented how important and special she is to our family. My Nan has this quilt on her bed and I’m told that it brings a smile to the faces of those that visit her. It also helps to keep the memories alive and the laughs flowing as we all talk about those words and the fabrics.
Pattern: Alphabet Pattern by Moda (it’s a freebie) click here to get the letters. (There is no list (that I’m aware of) of all the letters in one place so scroll to the bottom and follow the directions for getting the letter you need.)
Fabrics: All from my stash, there’s too many to list. If you want something in particular I can try and help you find it, just leave a comment below and Google and I will try and hook you up.
Quilting: Baptist Fan by Raylee Bielenberg of Sunflower Quilting.
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