Really, every post I write about quilts could start like this “Oh my goodness, it’s finally finished!” I’m so predictable ;-)
This Little Farmer’s Quilt was one of those spur of the moment quilts I pieced last year. On a rare Saturday morning off work, I drove out to Gail B’s Patchwork with Noah because I really wanted some of their old Heather Ross fabrics – hopefully the little farmer with her horses. And yes, they had it! So I then spent a lovely hour or so gathering soft sunset colours to put with it. I pictured a sort of round the world quilt but in rectangles not squares, with the Heather Ross fabric as the centrepiece.
It was the last quilt in progress that I shared with my dear old Grandad before he died. Mum was by his side almost every day during his last few months, and every day family from all over the world would send him photos, little videos, and skype messages that Mum would help him look at at. Oh he so loved it, and would look at his favourites over and over again. Especially videos of his greatgrandchildren saying “Love you grandad! Love you grandad!” He would wave back to them, kiss them on the iPad and say “Love you too sweetie!”
Truly, I cannot agree with anyone who says the internet and all its accompanying technology is destroying our families and societies. Despite so many of us being so far away, we were all able to be there with Grandad during his last days, sharing funny stories of old, describing what we’d been up to, reminding him of how much he was loved. It was an incredible blessing.
And he and Nanny always wanted to know what I was making so I would send Mum photos and she would share them. One of Grandad’s gifts was that he never offered shallow praise. If I played the piano for him, gave him an essay to read, showed him my patchwork or embroidery, I knew I could rely on him to tell me what he loved but also what needed improving. “Well, you need to work on that passage, don’t you!” he would say when I finished playing a wonky piece “But I loved listening to the opening – you played that well.” And “Well, that’s a nice looking lighthouse, but let’s face it sweetheart, that’s not what our lighthouses look like. I think you should make it authentic to us.” And “The colours look lovely Doogie, but I think you’ve rushed those points a bit. I know you could do better.”
I always valued Grandad’s opinion and his encouragement always made me want to go further, stretch myself, work harder.
I’ll always remember the Christmas I was accepted into the University of Queensland to study for my Bachelor of Arts when I was 17. Father Christmas had given me the University Handbook – a huge telephone directory sized volume that included every discipline within the university and a description of every subject they taught. The depth of offerings was amazing – I could even study Icelandic Language and Myth! After our big family Christmas dinner was eaten and washed up, Grandad and I sat at the dining table with the handbook, paper and pencil and pored over almost every chapter. We discussed what would be interesting, what would be useful, what would be difficult, the value of education and how fabulous it was that Gough Whitlam had introduced free tertiary for everyone – Grandad and I loved talking politics! He looked through disciplines that he would love to have studied as a young man and we talked about them too – he was especially interested in Australian history and politics. It was the beginning of my university life shared with one of the people I love more dearly than anything else. The perfect Christmas.
This here quilt … Grandad loved the colours – he thought they were the best choice I’d ever made – I’d created a beautiful sunset. And he liked how they radiated out from the centre. Me too Grandad. That’s exactly what I was hoping for.
So, the other afternoon, when Noah had an appointment at the hairdresser at Bermagui, it was the perfect opportunity to take along the almost finished quilt, sit on the cliff by the glittering sea and sew down the last of the binding, then take it down to one of our magic beaches with Noah and photograph it.
The late autumn afternoon sun was low in the sky, setting all the honeycomb rocks and quilt ablaze with rich light, and casting a magical dusty glow across the wetlands behind us. The wind whipped about us, sprinkling us and the quilt with a fine dusting of cool sand. The sea was choppy with white galloping horses out in the bay and thickly tumbling waves close to shore. There were a couple of fishermen further up the beach, a young woman running through the water and diving under the waves her long dreadlocked hair trailing behind her like a mermaid’s tail, and a sweet friendly dog called Maddie. That was definitely a sign – one of Grandad’s dearest grandchildren is named Maddie – oh how they adored each other :-)
Whenever we do something like this, I feel so close to Grandad because I know it’s exactly the kind of thing he would want to do too. He would have played with Maddie the dog, chatted with the fishermen about their catches, and asked the young woman about her exercise regime. He would have insisted on carrying the deck chair, and taken part in just how to best lay the quilt out and where to stand to catch the best light – Grandad loved his camera.
He would have loved every moment.
And then, as we were driving back along the beautiful winding road home – up the little hills and back down into the little valleys, all filled with picturesque dairy farms – there on the side of a small glade of trees was a little black wallaby.
It was dear old Grandad! Letting us know he’d had a lovely afternoon too and that he would always be here.