It’s kind of funny, while I don’t “get” abstract art, I am drawn to nontraditional quilt patterns with an abstract quality. Repetitive star block quilts just don’t turn me on. And I seem to have an eye for color. An artist, my friend Bettye’s mom, once complimented me, “Elaine, you understand color…” Anyways, somewhere I found a cool, free pattern in a technique called “Bargello.” An ongoing debate exists if the pronunciation is Bar-Jello or Bar-Gello with a hard “G.” For the record, I asked an Italian quilter, she said definitely Bar-Gello. Tomato, Tomahto, Potato, Patahto. Anyways, the technique is enthralling. So, I printed this pattern of an asymmetrical heart and read the instructions. Such as they were. It was Greek to me. I set it aside for several months, picking it up occasionally to see if the words made any sense.
Finally, I scanned a page of the Greek and posted a question on the Bargello quilt FaceBook page. Ah, help arrived with a couple of clues and the light bulb came on. I figured out what to do, picked fabric from the “stash,” got to cutting and sewing. There was no plan for what to do with the finished quilt, I was just making it for the heck of it, using what I had and trying not to spend any money. About half way through the assembly process, my friend Brenda’s mom passed away. I looked at the pink and mauve fabric and thought, this will be for Brenda. Now with a purpose, I happily continued on. But when the top was complete, I had a problem.
The colors blended too much. They were quite complimentary, but you couldn’t see the heart very well. Darn. I realized I should have used more contrasting fabric, but it was too late. A couple of months before this I discovered a casual friend was a “long-arm quilter,” meaning he has the big, computerized machine to do fancy quilting on large pieces. Plus, bonus, he lives about three miles from me. I showed it to him and he thought on it a while. The solution was to double batt the heart with a loose quilting pattern, and use single batting and a tight pattern on the background. This allowed the heart to literally “stand out.” I finished it and made my plan to surprise my friend.
About this same time, I had the opportunity to coordinate a quilt exhibit at the local arts council gallery. Ooh, think I, I’ll hang the heart bargello in that exhibit and ask Brenda to come to the reception. I sewed on a label to show it was in memory of her mother. I kept the secret for over a month. The fine arts director thought my plan was great and chose to put it right in the lobby.
During that reception, I was visiting with some people and suddenly, there was Brenda. Now, this gal is a special friend. We go back forty years to college days. She’s a character in my book, “Ridin’ Around.” Every time I hear Earth Wind and Fire’s song “September,” or Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street,” I think of her practicing her modern dance routines to those songs in the hallway of our college dorm. She was there for me when I was recovering from a motorcycle wreck. I took her to the hospital when she fell off a ladder and broke her foot. These days, we attend a weekly line dance class together.
Anyways, I grabbed her hand and led her back up to the front. The fine arts director followed us, and took photos and video. I explained how that stunning quilt hanging there in the front lobby of the gallery was for her, for her mom. Yes, we cried together. It was a truly special moment. A few weeks later she came by the house to pick up the quilt and take it home. We cried again.
Every quilt has a story. I’m pretty emotional about this one, but it was a special moment. It should be hanging in her house now so she can see it every day. That’s a powerful connection between good, good friends.