This Blog focuses on the New Orleans Memory Quilt I made. New Orleans is Rooster and my favorite place on planet earth. #New Orleans #crazy quilt
New Orleans Memory Quilt
When I was a kid, my Mama taught me how to embroidery. She was raised in Arkansas in the 1920s. In her day and age, it was a requirement all girl children should be taught how to handle a needle. I was born to my mother late in life. I spent many an afternoon learning how to do backstitch, blanket stitch, Chevron stitch, chain stitch. Lazy daisy stitches, Herringbone stitch, and make various types of knots.
She’d buy iron-on patterns, and I spent hours stitching designs on the fabric which would later be used to dry the dishes. When I was in high school, my best friend and I bought a package of wife-beater t-shirts and spent hours embordering on them. I taught her every stitch my mother taught me.
We thought we were cool when we showed up at school sporting our original designs. It was the sixties, and I remember us being the talk of the hallways. We made a fashion statement. I moved on to traditional quilting when I was raising my children. As a result, I spent hours hand piecing and quilting. And so, I could spend up to a year on a single project. Some of these quilts would be large enough to cover a king-sized bed.
Why I started making memory quilts.
I never thought I’d revisit the embroidery stitches I learned as a child until I started to make Crazy Quilt memory quilts.
My crazy quilt adventure started about ten years ago when we were Road Dogs. I wanted to make something special I could hang on the wall that would bring back memories of fantastic adventures which we experienced as Road Dogs. We rode all over the Eastern half of the United States. We even crossed the Mississippi river a couple of times and traveled into Missouri and Arkansas.
I collected patches from the places we visited, therefore, I included these mementos in the quilts I pieced together. I used the stitches my mamma taught me to decorate the seams of the quilt. She showed me how to overlap pieces of material to cover the surface of a single piece of fabric. This process created a kaleidoscope collage effect. I made one of these quilts, and it was followed by a parade of others.
Why it took so long for me to make my New Orleans Memory Quilt.
It’s taken me a year to finish my New Orleans memory quilt. Arthritis had started to affect my stitching ability. I can no longer do the needlework required for traditional quilting. The cartilage in both my wrists has deteriorated to the point where it causes me pain if I do any hand stitching for any length of time.
I had to do a tribute to the Crescent City. Rooster and I have been there six times. We’d be some of those folks who go down to the Big Easy on vacation and never leave if we could find a way to stay. As a matter of fact, other Hoosiers like to travel to New Orleans with us. Anyhow, Punky and Jerry followed us to Waveland, Mississippi on our first visit. Then, we stumbled onto the French Quarter Music Fest by accident when we rode our motorcycles into New Orleans.
Punky was offered a job at the Spotted Cat. There was a moment of anxiety when we thought she might run away from home. Rooster and I threw caution to the wind and ended up in Gramercy, Louisiana to watch a section of the seven miles of bonfires being lit on the Mississippi River levee. We spent three quiet days in New Orleans walking the deserted streets of the Quarter.
Mardi Gras Experience
One year we even went to Mardi Gras with our daughter and her family. Rooster forgot to check the gas gauge of the Sunshine Mobile before we pulled off the freeway. Orpheus was about to march. To make a long story short, we almost ran out of gas in the narrow streets of the Vieux Carre’. We have had an on-going seven-year love affair with the Cresent City.
Inspiration for My New Orleans Memory Quilt
And so, the inspiration for my New Orleans Crazy Quilt started with a desire to capture the adventures Rooster and I had in the Big Easy. I selected purple, green, and gold as the colors I would use. They are the colors of the city. They were chosen by the Rex organization in 1872 as the official Mardi Gras hues, but the town wears them year-round like a garland made of tradition. Purple is supposed to represent justice.
Green stands for the faith. Gold takes on the meaning of power because if you got the gold, you got the power. Patches are getting harder to find. Sometimes a motorcycle shop will carry one with their store logo. Bikers like to have them sewn onto their leather vests as a display of bragging rights to places where they’ve ridden.
If you get lucky, you will come across a patch in the typical tourist haunts. State and Federal parks are other locations where you can find a patch to sew into a quilt. I was able to find an assortment on our various trips to the Big Easy. Next came the hard part.
Problems I encountered in the construction of the quilt
The construction and embellishment of the quilt was a challenge. Arthritis in my hands has increased as I’ve aged.
Time was another factor. I started writing the Hen House Series after our first visit to New Orleans. It was while we were in the city, I came up with the second half of the first book. I went back home to Indiana and threw myself into writing. I find have time to work on my New Orleans Memory Quilt because I was typing away on my computer.
There were many stops and starts, but this quilt wouldn’t leave me alone until it was sewn. It made my last stitch on the finished product the day we got home from New York City. The New Orleans Memory Quilt now hangs on the wall above Rooster’s desk like a large memory patch on the wall. Next, I plan to accept the challenge of a crazy quilt dedicated to our visit to the Big Apple. Believe it or not, with the help of Chris and Rooster I found patches in the heart of New York City.
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.
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One thought on “New Orleans Memory Quilt”
Fabulous quilting, Molly. Like you, I spent many years doing embroidery, using all the stitches you mentioned, but I’ve never tried my hand at making quilts. The ones you show here are really lovely. Great photos of New Orleans, too. I’m sure your planned quilt of New York is amazing.