My great-grandmother was a milner. She loved fabric and thread, and was brilliant at creating the most wonderful hats that suited each woman perfectly. Last year's hoopla over the Royal Wedding would have filled her with glee. I'm sure her fingers would have itched to be part of that. I've barely worn a hat since she died when I was in my mid-twenties. She was 105 and sharp as a tack for the first 100 years.
Mumma raised my mother when the latter was a teenager. That's a delicate and difficult age and massive kudos to a woman in her seventies taking on such a task. Fortunately, the two had a lot in common and the tough times were minimal. During that time, Mumma taught my mom to quilt.
Fast forward to my own difficult teenage years. My mom hauled out a box of fabric from her grandmother and taught me how to piece them together. Mumma donated a quilt of butterfly applique that she'd never finished towards my education. It was an Olympic year so we set up the quilting frame in the living room and kept busy while we watched Nadia Comaneci, Bruce Jenner and Canada's own Greg Joy. For the next few years, I sewed, embroidered and quilted through the confusing times.
Then I stopped.
I'm not sure why exactly. I know that's about the time I started knitting. I was older and my interests were more outside of the house. I was busy exploring the world.
Last year, I inherited bolts and bolts and remnants of fabric from my friend and her mother. I recognized some of the scraps from different projects but a lot of it was brand new and never been cut. I knew right then what I would do with it all. Well, as much as I could manage.
Part of the challenge lay in the fact that I'd never learned to use a sewing machine. No matter how often my mom walked me through it, it was something I simply couldn't grasp. All of that material had to be hand-sewn. I recruited a friend to help with some of it. She took half the material to cut and machine sew. I took the other half and stared at it for several months.
Then the Olympic ads started. My mom came home from the hospital and helped me organize the fabric into weights, colours and themes. My goal was to get the project pieced together in time to quilt during the Olympics.
I put it on the hoop the night before the Opening Ceremonies. Every day while I watch Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas and the Canadian women's soccer team, I quilt. I've been posting the daily progress on my Facebook page which caused my aunt to remind me of my great-grandmother who started it all.
My mom is back in hospital. My friend is gone. My great-grandmother long gone. But the threads they have woven in my life are as strong as the thread that pulls three layers of fabric sturdy and true.