I would like to tell you about my friend, Shirley. Now, even though Shirley has left the building, so to speak, she really is still with us. She knew almost everyone in our area, and if you knew Shirley, you would certainly remember her. She was one of those "larger than life" people that pop up every now and then. She might not remember your name, and refer to you as "what's her name", but she would remember all your children and what they were doing and who they played hockey for. Shirley LOOOOOVED hockey! Go Dogs!!
She was a beauty queen in high school, married the local doctor, became the perfect mother of five children before being widowed at a young age. After a time, she remarried a lovely man, who happened to have three chicks of his own--that made eight--and then they had three together, making a grand total of eleven. That's 11-- yes, ELEVEN. The family home became the gathering spot for the neighborhood kids and Shirley controlled it all with the proverbial iron fist inside the quilted mitt. Dinnertime chaos was handled by having the kids eat in the dining room, while she and Al ate in the peacefulness of the kitchen. One time, Al heard a shout--"Hey, George, pass the mashed potatoes!" He turned to Shirley and calmly asked--"Do we have a George?"
Being close to perfect,..... and very fit from running around after 11 children, Shirley also excelled at sports--champion golfer and tennis player....trophies all over the house. However, there came a time when she was sidelined by back surgery, and, probably to get her out of everybody's hair, she was sent out to visit some of the kids, now living in California. They introduced her to the neighbor lady, who happened to be a quilter. Now, we quilters love nothing better than to infect others with our quilting addiction--and Shirley was hooked. One thing you need to know, was that Shirley couldn't sew. She could make a Mariner's Compass with the best of them, but she never learned to put up a hem---or so she said.
The other problem was,----- in Duluth at that time, there was no quilt shop, no quilt guild, not even another person that Shirley knew who was a quilter. So, she decided to start her own group, and she put an ad in the classified section of the newspaper--"If you are interested in belonging to a quilting group, please come to my house" and she gave her address and a date and time. She thought maybe a handful of quilters would come around. She worried a lot that NO ONE would come. The day and the time came--Lo and Behold--47 people showed up! And North Country Quilters was born. In between meetings, the "Soup Group" met at her house to make and tie charity quilts. There was always quilting going on at Shirley's big, old house. A friend of mine said it was like being in the middle of an electric fan.
I know we all have our favorite and our not-so-favorite parts about quilting. I love to draw the designs and pick out the colors and fabrics. I get tired of the piecing after awhile, but Shirley LOVED to piece--mostly by hand. She made quilts from probably half of all the existing traditional quilt blocks. She loved making scrap quilts, applique quilts, she even made an Escher Lizzard quilt . And a swan wallhanging.
BUT, she wasn't as fond of handquilting and finishing, and she wasn't sure she approved of machine quilting, at the time. So, she finished the tops and hung them in her closets. I believe, at one time, Shirley had at least 28 quilt TOPS hanging neatly on hangers in various closets. Almost every quilt had been promised to someone, but almost all of them stayed in the closet.
The great reveal came when Shirley was named Minnesota Quilter of the Year. This is a huge honor, involving a fair amount of "quilter adoration", bouquets of roses, hugs, rhinestone tiaras and all that wonderful stuff. Unfortunately, it also involves a special exhibit of the honoree's "body of work". As of that moment, Shirley's was still in the closet.
If you are a quilter, you KNOW what happened next. The long-armers, the short-armers, the hand-quilters and the finishers--they all came and emptied Shirley's closets--they quilted and finished her quilts--and the show went on! And Shirley loved it! She had more fun than anybody!
My friend, Shirley, was a very smart lady and a wonderful teacher. She could look at your worst, butt-ugly effort at making a quilt and tell you to your face how great it was. She could run you through how to match points with hand-piecing until you both were sick of it, but she never had a bad comment to make about anyone--at least not out loud. And she had me pegged, early on. Soon after I started quilting, I took a "Lady of the Lake" class from her. You know--- blocks on point, water down, skies up, solid block in between, plain double border--you know,
I made mine going around in a circle, with Flying Geese racing through the center and five patch blocks all around the outside. Shirley didn't say-"that's not the way it's always been done" or "that's not the way I would do it". She took one look at my quilt and said--"You can't ever do anything the way you're supposed to, can you?? But, it's okey."
Shirley and I saw eye to eye on most things, even though we met in an unusual fashion, both grabbing for the same bolt of black print fabric at The Country Peddler Quilt Shop, in St Paul. She won, but she left enough for me. Then she said--"Who ARE you? I'm usually the only one who buys black!" We went on a few adventures, ran a major quilt show together, shared some mishaps and laughed ourselves silly. Sometime, maybe next time, I'll tell you about all that.
If you go to my "tips and projects" page, I'll share a couple of tips that I got from Shirley, Herself.
Don't forget to see the new Kimono silk kits that I added to my shop--go to SHOP.