I had originally intended to make today’s post about Spry’s wedding present, except it’s not done and I don’t want to put it up until I’ve given it to her. Then I intended to post about one of my little side projects, but as I was in the shower I realized that today is the anniversary of my friend F’s death. I made my first ever quilt for her mom.
F was a friend from college. I don’t know if the other girls knew her, but if they didn’t I wish they had. She was such a sweet, loving, giving person. She died in a car accident several years ago. I’d never lost someone who wasn’t old before. I was only working part time that summer and I didn’t have much to distract me from my grief. I would wake up at 6 or 7 in the morning for no reason, with nothing to do until nine. I baked a cherry pie from scratch the week after she died because I was straining to find ways to fill my time. One day I decided that I would make a quilt to give to F’s mom as a memento. I don’t know why I decided I should make a quilt. I could sew, of course, but I’d never completed any project more ambitious than pillows, and I didn’t have a good sense of what quilting itself – not the piecing, but sewing the layers together – really entailed. I have a history of decided that something I haven’t tried yet “can’t be that hard” and then being too stubborn to quit even when it does, indeed, prove to be that hard. I ended up with one of my college majors that way.
I researched quilt blocks online and picked a pinwheel. It looked relatively simple, although I suspect I should have chosen something else. I spent the summer acquiring fabrics and cutting them by hand, with scissors. My parents gave me a sewing machine for my birthday. It’s so long ago I barely remember the process, only that I spent far too much time acquiring fabric and far too little sewing because I was busy with grad classes by the time I got my sewing machine.
It was a difficult semester. Classes were overwhelming. I was also helping with the memorial for F that we held on campus. I was miserable for a lot of reasons. The quilt may have added to my worries, but it was the project I needed, something into which I could channel my energy and my sorrow. I thought of her, piecing together each colorful pinwheel- not knowing or remembering F’s favorite color, I chose bright prints instead. She had always worn brightly colored hijabs and I wanted the quilt to remind everyone who saw it of her sunny personality and penchant for bright colors. I wanted it to be like her. The outsides of the hexagonal patches are in cool colors, purples, blues, and greens. The pinwheels are in warm colors, yellows, oranges, and pinks. All of the prints were whimsical and bright. I keep using bright – I suppose I ought to come up with a synonym, but I won’t bother. Like all of my quilts, it’s very busy. I like to use a lot of prints.
I appliqued her name and the words “She will remain in our hearts” in Arabic. I got scolded by one of my professors because my friend M’s Persian uncle had written out the script for me and he’d left a couple of dots off of F’s name that wouldn’t be there in Persian but should be there in Arabic.
I photocopied the calligraphy as he’d written in out, then cut out the words and pinned them to the fabric I wanted to use. I traced along the edges and then cut each word. I didn’t know how to finish the edges so I treated then with clear nail polish and then appliqued them with a straight stitch. I now know that this is definitely not the way to applique something, but back then I had no idea.
I didn’t actually know anything about quilting, as I’d said. I had a book – I think our friend A gave it to me for my birthday. It talked about different techniques and I chose tying. I’m sure I didn’t do it very well. I remember only that I was rushing to get the quilt done.
We featured the quilt at the memorial service for F. Everyone was sworn to secrecy, as I wanted to surprise her mother with it. I mailed it to her just in time for an Islamic holiday – either Eid al-Fitr or Eid al-Adha. I can’t remember which; it would have been a couple months’ difference. I think I wanted to get it to her for Ramadan but didn’t manage, so it was probably Eid al-Adha.
I can’t believe she’s been gone so long. In some ways, it seems like it’s been forever, but in other ways it doesn’t seem possible that I haven’t seen her in years. The quilt was my tribute to her, the only thing I could think to give to her mother, to show her how beloved F was and how much joy she brought into other people’s lives. The words are as true for me today as they were then. I think about her every day and I pray for her every day. I know she’s in heaven. الله يرحمها
Sorry the Arabic is sideways; I don’t know how to fix that so I’m just going to leave it.