Your Gift to the World

Grandma's Flower Garden Quilt
Grandma’s Flower Garden Quilt
Grandma and Grandpa. The little girl scowling on the right is my mom. The happy little boy is Uncle Helmer.
Grandma and Grandpa. The little girl scowling on the right is my mom. The happy little boy is Uncle Helmer.

My grandma (Mom’s mother) used to make quilts. At some point she started making a green “Flower Garden” quilt, but she never finished it. When Grandma died, Mom took the quilt pieces with the intention of finishing the quilt sometime.

Mom was not fond of sewing. She used to tell the story of one time she tried to cut out a dress pattern. She kept getting two of the same sleeves instead of a left and a right sleeve, over and over again, regardless of how she positioned the sleeve pattern piece on the fabric. She was getting more and more frustrated. Finally, her young daughter Nancy, who was intently watching her, suggested turning the pattern piece upside down. It worked!

Mom liked to embroider and crochet, but sewing was not her gift. I grew up sleeping on beautifully embroidered pillowcases. When I was in my 20s and 30s, Mom crocheted afghans in the right colors for every room in our house and for every car we ever owned. But she never did sew my grandma’s quilt pieces together.

Mom crocheting a baby afghan.
Mom crocheting a baby afghan.

I share my mom’s lack of skill in sewing. In high school I took “Home Ec” one year and had to make a dress. One of my classmates, Connie, put in the zipper for me. The zipper was the best looking part of the dress. I never wore the dress. In college, my friend, Claudia, tried to teach me how to knit. My first and only project was a pair of slippers. I tried to wear them around the dorm, but one slipper was too tight and the other was so big it kept falling off my foot. Claudia knitted me a pair of slippers that fit to inspire me to keep trying, but I gave up. Knitting wasn’t my gift.

When my mom died, my sister, Nancy, took our grandma’s quilt blocks and hired Aunt Edith (the gospel pianist I wrote about last summer) to finish making the quilt. When my sister died, none of her kids claimed the quilt, so I took it. I have it on display on a wall-mounted quilt rack in our home.

Last week my cousin, Gloria, brought me a snapshot of that quilt (at top of this blog post) along with her mother’s notes about finishing the quilt for Nancy. Gloria was in Cambridge for a few days to help her brothers and sisters get everything ready for their parents’ estate sale this past weekend.

Aunt Edith's notes.
Aunt Edith’s notes.

According to Aunt Edith’s notes, she started to put together my grandma’s quilt pieces into the “Flower Garden” pattern on October 27, 1989 and she finished the project on May 19, 1990. It took her 303-3/4 hours and cost her $15.90 for thread and other materials. She charged Nancy 71¢ per hour for 303-1/2 hours (she gave her ¼ hour free!) for a total price for labor and materials of $231.39. Nancy gave her $500.

In The Monastic Way daily readings for this month, Joan Chittister’s focus is “Doing What You Like.” For March 3 she wrote, “Doing what I like doing is not a waste of time. It is my gift to the rest of the world.”

I am so thankful that Aunt Edith knew that. She faithfully used her God-given gifts – both at the piano and at the quilting frame – to create beauty. Those were her gifts to us.

Aunt Edith at the piano. (In the 1930s she married the happy little boy pictured above, my Uncle Helmer.
Aunt Edith at the piano. Sometime In the 1930s she married the happy little boy pictured above, my Uncle Helmer.

8 responses to “Your Gift to the World”

  1. Hi Marian,

    That is a beautiful quilt!  I loved reading the history behind it.

    The photo of your grandparents – David Kornelsen has your grandpa’s eyes, Michelle your grandmother’s eyes?  I  much enjoy remembering your family members that I know or knew, and how you weave it all together into something to ponder.


    1. I agree with you about the family resemblance with Dave and my grandpa. I hadn’t thought about Michelle and my grandma before, but I think you’re right about Michelle’s eyes.

      It’s fun to realize that I can still learn lessons from my mom, even though she died 25 years ago. I guess when I think about it, I can learn something about life from everyone I’ve ever met. That’s the way God made us.

      Thanks for commenting on the blog. I like sharing ideas with you.

  2. Beautiful precious memories – I wonder where the quilt will go (along with it’s story) in another 100 years?

    1. Good question! I hope it goes to one of my nieces or nephews and that the story stays alive. But if that doesn’t happen, I hope it goes to someone who will benefit from its warmth as well as its beauty.

  3. Hi, Marian,

    Just wanted you to know this reader truly enjoys your weekly blog message. 

    Give Abby and Mim a hug from me.

    – Jane Korsberg


    1. Thanks, Jane. Nice to hear from you. Hope you are doing well.

  4. Gloria Zimmerman Avatar
    Gloria Zimmerman

    Thank you Marian, this was surely a gift to me. So many memories this week to go through nice to see the picture of your mom, my aunt, I especially remember the chicken dinners and those delicious rolls. Again thanks for the memories.

    1. Thanks again, Gloria, for giving me the photo of the quilt and your mom’s notes about finishing it. Obviously, they mean a lot to me. Thanks also for reminding me of my mom’s chicken dinners. I wish I had learned how to make her rolls. I can almost duplicate the pan-fried chicken, but not the rolls.

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