Sunday, June 24, 2007

Unfinished Business

If you’re an avid thrifter, you may have had this experience at a flea market or estate sale. From across the room, you spot a quilt that takes your breath away. Even though you’ve only glimpsed a corner of the design, you recognize it as a classic. While reading the ridiculously low price scribbled on the tag, your heart begins to race. “At last, the quilt gods are on my side,” you mutter incredulously, for you’ve discovered the rarest of finds--a beautiful applique quilt, in pristine condition, at a reasonable price!

With trembling hands, you pull the treasure from a pile of rumpled linens. But it feels remarkably light for a quilt and something has fallen from between the folds and onto the floor. There at your feet, lies a plastic bag overflowing with wrinkled scraps of fabric in the same colors as the quilt. Then it hits you. What you are holding is not a finished quilt--it is someone’s unfinished business!

This might well have been the fate of my Whig Rose quilt, had dear friends not interceded on its behalf. From the start, it was destined to be a collaboration but I could never have predicted how many hands would leave their mark on it with loving stitches.

I received the center block from Chris K. in a 1992 Christmas exchange. As much as I loved the block and wanted it to be the focal point in a quilt, my life was too hectic to start a new project. We just had our second child and were selling one house while building another. Needless to say, the block got set aside.

Once settled in our new home, I decided to meet local quilters by taking a class. Out came the Whig Rose block--a perfect starting point for a class on designing borders. As you can see, Border 1 provides a simple frame around the busy center. Border 2 is the classic half square triangle, with a controlled color layout. For Border 3, I got as far as designing the applique, cutting out leaves and flowers, and basting the pieces in place. Once again, it got set aside, this time for several years.

Life had gotten in the way, BIG TIME! I thought the quilt would never be finished. I asked my friend Barb V. if she would be willing to complete the applique and she agreed. When she returned it to me, I thought the border needed something else. How about berries? Barb took what she now referred to as “our quilt” and dutifully stitched fifty-some berries (Who’s counting? I bet she was!) amongst the appliqu├ęd flowers.

After that, I lost all sense of guilt or shame. I couldn’t bear to have it machine quilted since every other stitch had been done by hand. So, Mary C. was enlisted to hand quilt the Whig Rose. Kathy S. added the binding. Sheila L. shuttled the quilt between volunteers and although she tried that “possession is 9/10 of the law” bit, she returned the precious quilt to me--finally completed, 15 years after its inception.

Is this waaaaay more than you care to know about any of my quilts?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Road Trip

Well, I managed to survive a parental milestone--a son’s first road trip. It wasn’t his first time away from home. He’s gone to camp and traveled to Atlanta and New York City with the high school band. The summer of his junior year, he joined a group of students and teachers in France for two weeks. He’s visited Washington D.C. and gone skiing in Colorado with a friend’s family. And when it came time to select a college, he chose his father’s alma mater, which is 800 miles from home!

So, why did I feel different about this weekend trip to meet up with college friends in Pittsburgh? I suppose it was because he was on his own. We equipped him with a tuned-up car, full of gas, traveler’s checks and cell phone, a good road atlas and pages of Map Quest directions to his various destinations. We knew his itinerary and asked him to call home when he stopped for the night.

Our son is a bright, self confident young man who is well on his way to a life independent of us. I trust his judgment. I admire his strong values. I am confident in his skills as both a driver and navigator. So what was my problem? What was causing my uneasiness besides the typical parental reluctance to relinquish control to her child?

I finally realized what was unnerving me; it’s the world I don’t trust. After the tragedy at Virginia Tech, my mother asked me if I wasn’t worried about my son being in college so far from home. “Mom, that could have happened anywhere,” I replied. That’s just the problem! Everyday life is uncertain. It can be dangerous, painful, and ugly and there’s not much I can do to protect my children from that.

My son got home safely after having a great time with friends. It turns out the only problems he encountered were with inaccurate Map Quest directions. The Rand McNally Road Atlas “saved his ass” (his words) several times. That night, I gave him an extra long hug, not because he needed it, but because I did.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Still More...

Orange Pixie Asiatic Lily

Hand Appliqued and Hand Quilted
DJB and friends, 2005

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Butterfly Weed

Whig Rose

Saturday, June 16, 2007


“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…” Not in this heat. Not with this humidity. Not for someone with MS it isn’t! These temperatures sap my strength and stamina, relegating me to a wheelchair. How is it that delicate garden flowers flourish in this heat, whereas I wilt, in spite of the air conditioner and ceiling fan blowing full force?


When my husband was watering the yard this morning, I asked him to take some pictures of the garden. I’ve spent the day cropping photos and fiddling with files, finding an unintentional correlation between the colors in our yard and those I most enjoy using in my quilts. See for yourself.

Monte Negro Asiatic Lily

tThistle, 48" x 48"
Hand Appliqued and Hand Quilted
DJB, 1996

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Good Morning

A confection spun
from clouds and sun
in cotton candy hues;

A lustrous treat
served up to eat
in a sky of brightening blues.

Take a bite
of candied light
before it fades away,

And as the sun
melts on your tongue,
taste dawn turn into day.

© 2006 Diane Burdin
Photo by Sheila Lewis

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Birth Stories

We tend to be a forward looking family, focusing more on the future than dwelling on the past. With two teenage boys and their hectic schedules, the “future” might only be as far ahead as the next weekend. But the thing that gets us all reminiscing is a birthday. On their birthdays, the boys grant me one privilege; I get to recount the story of their births.

Few events in life are as indelibly etched into memory as the birth of our children. For me, each exquisite and excruciating detail remains crystal clear and my narrative has varied little from year to year. Naturally, when my sons were young, we kept the stories simple. But as they grew, we added “age appropriate” details. By now, at ages 16 and 19, they pretty much get the uncensored version. Sure, there’s some awkward squirming going on with the mention of water breaking, contractions, and epidurals. I do draw the line at recounting gory details; I can't seem to use the word “episiotomy” in front of them.

I had to laugh when my older son came home after seeing the new movie Knocked Up. A Newsweek review said the film was funny but that the delivery room scene was graphic and “icky.” My son's comment was that the birth scene reminded him of his own birth story--not that his birth was “icky” (although it was) but rather, that having heard his birth story year after year, he was pretty much unphased by the scene!

Birthdays also remind me of the quillts I've made for my family over the years. When my younger son was born, I made him a whole cloth quilt. The pattern, Princess/Prince’s Feather, was designed by Marianne Fons. In a workshop on drawing feather quilting motifs, she gave us the basic elements of the design but taught us how to mark each feather individually using a teardrop shaped template. The hardest part for me was not so much in marking the quilt top, but leaning over the table to do so while several months pregnant!

Sorry about the quality of the pictures.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Before and After

Happy 16th Birthday!