Quilting with Mamaw

Mamaw Rustin

For as long as I can remember, for every family vacation until I was 15, we went to Kentucky. Both my parents were from a small town in western Kentucky. Most of my aunts, uncles and cousins lived there, as well as my only surviving grandmother or as we called her, Mamaw Rustin. For those of you not from the south it’s pronounced mam-awww.

We would make the rounds, visiting our relatives and friends of my parents. Usually we would stay with my grandmother and my “aunt” in this small old farmhouse out in the country.  After we’d been there a few days, those two old ladies would go about their business as per usual.  They would sit in the back room which was flooded with sunshine and listen to church radio or just sit in comfortable silence. They always kept their hands busy, my aunt with her knitting or crochet and my mamaw piecing quilts by hand. Mamaw never seemed to keep any quilts for herself; she would always be working on something for her children and grandchildren as gifts. She always told me quilts were to be used and I better not be “saving” mine, so I slept soundly under my blue Windmill quilt until it started to wear. I still have them today.

My Mamaw Rustin in her sewing room.

Mamaw Rustin with one of her quilts

I would sit with both of them in that back room, drawing or cutting out quilt pieces for them and chatting their ears off!  I am sure they were more than ready for me to leave by the time our visit was up. I would ask them a million questions and they would tell me stories of when they were young.  I wish I could go back to those earlier times, chatting with those amazing ladies, basking in the sunshine and chewing bubble gum. We would be sitting in our rocking chairs and enjoying a simpler time. I didn’t realize what a gift they were giving me.

Fast forward 30 years and I find myself looking for all those things I took for granted as a girl. I recently started making quilts and I think of my mamaw every time I start a project. Granted I don’t do hand sewing, I just don’t have the knack but I enjoy both the creativity and the logic of quilting. It satisfies both sides of my nature. It also gives me a connection to my past and all the wonderful women who helped shape the person I am today. I find I like give my quilts away just like my mamaw.  I haven’t finished a quilt for myself yet, but it makes me happy to know the ones I have finished are being used by people who love them. This family connection is in my roots, my background, my DNA.

The other day my niece asked me if it is hard to sew. “Could I teach her how to make a quilt?” This is our future, our connection and the bonds that will someday be her memories. I think I will tell her stories about when I was young and the amazing women she comes from. I hope that someday she will tell her children the stories about quilting with her aunt. I hope she will tell them about basking in the sunshine in her aunt’s sewing room and chatting about everything and nothing at all. And she will smile.