About two years ago, I began an interesting journey. Now the trip is almost over and I’m feeling a variety of emotions. Let me tell you about a quilt called Scarlet Sampler.
Late in the summer of 2015, the president-elect of Nebraska State Quilt Guild asked if I’d be interesting in helping out with the guild’s raffle quilt for 2017. The raffle quilt is a major fund raising tool for NSQG, and they usually sell all 4999 tickets, which is the maximum number allowed by Nebraska’s gaming laws.
“Helping out” didn’t sound too hard, so I said yes.
Somehow it turned out differently than that. I was the only person on the committee of four with quilt design experience. Two members were beginners. I kind of fell into the whole thing.
We decided early that we wanted to do a sampler quilt—even though I don’t usually like sampler quilts. In this case, it seemed the only way to pay tribute to Nebraska’s history and heritage. Our state celebrates her 150th birthday this year, and we wanted to honor her in a big way.
We chose blocks we liked that also had Nebraska ties in some way. We started making them with fabrics from my stash of reds, and I worked and reworked a diagram for an idea I had: put 149 blocks on the quilt front, and one giant Nebraska Windmill block on the back to equal 150.
There were many times when I wasn’t sure it would work. I wondered if it would be hideous. I worried that nobody would buy the tickets. I fretted over our deadline. I agonized over putting a design out for public scrutiny, indeed more than that: asking people to spend hard-earned cash for a slim chance of winning the quilt. I stewed and hoped and prayed.
It was difficult to keep track of so many blocks. I made a spreadsheet but felt hopelessly lost most of the time. How many blocks were done? Which ones? What were their sizes? What was left to complete? Was it balanced? Did the reds work together? Would the pieced border actually fit?
Finally we were close enough to start putting them on my design wall. A ray of hope: maybe it would work.
We sent it off to Kris Vierra from Lincoln, an award-winning longarm quilter. This was one time I felt confident, as I knew Kris’s work was exquisite and could bring the quilt to life. When it came back, I was so happy with the job Kris had done. The quilting looked fabulous.
I should add here that the quilt back needed to be centered because of the large Nebraska Windmill block. Kris did an excellent job of that, too.
On went the label and the binding. Tickets were printed, and we were ready to go. The quilt was unveiled at QuiltNebraska 2016, on July 30, 2016 to a standing ovation. It felt like the weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders at that moment. They liked it!
The quilt went on to be recognized with a first place ribbon at Nebraska State Fair, the largest state fair quilt show in the nation with more than 600 entries. We were very pleased.
I knew all along that the quilt would not be mine in the end. The date of giveaway was set for July 29, 2017. About a week before that, my heart started to be heavy with the impending event. I couldn’t shake it. It felt like a part of me was leaving home, never to come back. I remembered feeling less sad about taking my 18-year-olds to college. (Sorry, kids!)
And then something amazing happened. The big night came, we sold the last of the tickets, more people said they wanted to win the quilt. And when the winner was pulled from the huge basket of stubs, it turned out that she’s a quilter, from Nebraska, and listen to this: Her husband had died the day before.
My heart couldn’t be heavy any more. Here are the things I realized:
- It’s just a quilt. It’s not a loved one.
- It’s a special quilt, and it’s going to someone who will understand that.
- It’s going to her at a dark and heavy time of loss, and maybe it will bring a bit of joy in the days to come.
- It was my privilege to be part of this, and it will be my privilege to deliver Scarlet Sampler to its new owner one day soon.
There was agony, there was ecstasy, and I learned a whole lot in the process. I call that a success.
You can read more about Scarlet Sampler, the significance of the blocks to Nebraska and other details at scarletsampler.blogspot.com.