Christmastime is my favorite time of year. There’s no contest, no comparison; its simply the best time of year. I know this is a popular view, but truly, I believe my love of Christmas is as much a part of my DNA as my red hair or pear shaped figure. When I was a child, my grandparents would throw a huge Thanksgiving feast and invite the whole family. The men would smoke a pig, which is in fact called a ‘pig pickin’ and not a ‘pig roast’ where I come from in coastal North Carolina. My grandmother, mom, and aunts would prepare every side dish imaginable, and we would simply be together. As kids, we would play croquet, climb trees, and wonder at all the curious things my grandmother kept around her house, for no other reason, I am convinced, than to bring joy to others and herself. I don’t remember the TV being on, except for maybe a football game if the Redskins were playing, and as anyone born in the early 90s or prior knows, there weren’t any other sorts of entertaining electronics unless you had a Billy the Bass, which we did not.
After our family thanksgiving, which you would have thought was a big to do, came the part where my grandmother would deck the halls to a whole new level. I can still remember walking into her house and seeing the tree adorned with Keepsake ornaments, her crocheted blanket on the quilt stand against the wall by the buffet, Santas everywhere the eye could see, and a uniquely themed tree in every communal room. Her house smelled like the only place in the world you might wish to be, and her presence alone was more magical than tongue can tell. She made this season pure magic. I haven’t shared a holiday with her in 15 long years, but this season still holds my heart because of her. I was very blessed to inherit some precious pieces from her collection, and they stand in my home carrying her warmth and light. I probably sound crazy to some, but these things, materials though they may be, hold such a significant place in my heart, I hold them right up there with my wedding rings in terms of their sentimental value. I want to create the atmosphere she did when she was still here. I’m doing my best to pay her tribute and give my own family that same sense of contentedness and belonging she spread to everyone who knew her. Fast forward to about two years ago, my family and I were going through some really rough times. It was just awful. The place we lived offered next to nothing as far as work is concerned, and Justin was working himself to death just to pay the bills and provide enough food to not be hungry. I had a very generous friend reach out to me and ask if I could have any collection of fabric that was currently available, what would I choose? She knew it had been about a year since I had purchased any fabric at all for personal use, and I knew right away I would love to be able to work with Cotton + Steel’s Garland collection. It had such a warm, vibrant, and happy palette, and it was holiday themed so that was a huge plus! She went so above and beyond in her generosity, and not only sent Garland, but fabric for backing and binding, and about six collections of Tula Pink. I just remember sitting there and crying and not even being able to form words. It was such an overwhelming display of kindness and love.
We moved states away right after Christmas, which turned out to be the best decision for our family and marked a huge turning point in our lives. Eleven months after that, we purchased our home where we have now been for more than a year. So really, this is the first Christmas in our nine years of marriage that we have been able to deck our own halls, and really make it ours. I’m happy to be married to a man who shares my love of Christmas and the whole spirit of the season. Our home is adorned with handmade stockings, my grandma’s Santas, Keepsake ornaments, and it smells of spices. Its our own version of that picture my grandmother so wonderfully painted in my own childhood.
As summer came to a close, and it seemed Autumn would never turn cool, I pulled out my candles and bought some pumpkins and willed for the temperature to drop so I could finally start feeling festive and drink gingerbread lattes and wear sweaters. I made an Autumn quilt top, but I also pulled out my whole bundle of Garland and pressed the fabrics for cutting. I ended up getting some commissioned work, and since that always trumps personal projects, my Garland sat on my bookshelf patiently waiting to be made into something new.
Sometimes, I find, that waiting is the most perfect thing that could happen. Even if there is nothing wrong with the original plan, that waiting period allows me to come into a project with fresh eyes and see that making a small or large change could make the project so much better. That was exactly the case here. You see, there was nothing lacking in Garland at all, but just last week, I saw a friend of mine making a quilt in a very similar palette, BUT she added in some black and yellow, and let me tell you what, it totally transformed the quilt. It took it from lovely to all out breathtaking. Those few additions made the palette so sunshiney and vintage, and I just loved it. So I added just five more prints to my Garland- the yellow XO print from the Cotton + Steel basics, a black and white from one of Alexia’s collections, a yellow/gold grid from Anna Maria Horner’s Loominous collection, and two fabrics from Juliana Horner’s debut collection, Rosette.
Its funny because while I feel like this palette really captures a lot of my grandma, it actually also reminds me of this funky blanket/quilt thing my mom used to bundle up in. I thought it was horrendous. It was a printed and quilted whole cloth that looked like really chaotically pieced patchwork, and it folded over like a sleeping bag and had a zipper and buttons. I remember being so amused seeing my mom bundled up in that thing as a child, but here I am now with a quilt that sort of echos that, um, 90s Snuggie, as far as the colors are concerned.
My very favorite print in the whole quilt is the Santa design. I wish I had a whole bolt of that one. I just love the way the colors, both bright and bold, work together to make a quilt that really pops. The metallic gold bits are so good, like little twinkling lights!
While this quilt certainly reminds me of my grandma, its funny because I didn’t plan it around a grandma theme. This granny square-esque layout is one I put together in my autumn quilt, and after trying a few layout with this fabric, I decided that would work perfectly here as well. I used all but three squares, I think! And I didn’t get a good picture of the whole quilt because its quite large, and I couldn’t get the lighting right on the whole thing. I am planning to hand quilt this baby, so while it will mean it won’t get used this Christmas, it will certainly be used for many Christmases to come.
I tell my children all the time that I wish they could have know my grandma. She would have just loved on them and spoiled them completely rotten. But for those who go ahead of us, we can remember them with thankfulness and love for the mark they made on our lives. So I’m going to keep this Christmas season full of love, not only for our Savior who came in an unassuming way and changed humanity, but for the people who came before us, and taught us how to love fully, give generously, and be the kindness in someone else’s life.