November 29, 2010

The E- - - - - - - - - quilt

My grandad and I share a birthday. That's not really important, except that if you shared a birthday with someone who was this gentle and kind and amazingly intelligent, you would brag about it too. Grandad worked as an electrical engineer for his professional life and he is always ready to whip any wheezing refrigerator or stuck garage door back into shape. When my grandma and I would get together and talk about fabric and quilts, grandad would tell us about the kind of fabrics he would like to see. Some electrical components would be nice, he mused. He figured there would be a big market for that kind of thing.


Eventually this line of discussion turned into a quilt idea. He cautioned me not to breathe a word of it. In his letters to me he would refer to it as the "E - - - - - - - - -" quilt. I couldn't exactly tell if he was joking or if this was a holdover from his days of working on top secret military projects, when there was probably a very good chance that someone was actually reading his mail. I was pretty sure he was joking though.

By the way, one of my grandad's non-military projects as a young man was to design a mechanism that would detect bottles of Pabst that were not full and then knock them off the bottling line with a puff of air. So, if you've never had the disappointment of opening a half empty bottle of Pabst, you can thank him.

Anyway one Christmas my family decided to draw names instead of getting gifts for everyone. I drew grandad's name and so I decided to make his E - - - - - - - - -  quilt.  I asked him to send me pictures of the vintage electrical parts he had in his collection of things that might still be useful someday. He complied with all seriousness and emailed them and then I spent hours trying to separate the images from their backgrounds, a process which is simple for those who know something about graphics programs and torture for everyone else. This was in the dark ages before Spoonflower so I got the images onto fabric with fabric transfer paper. I cringe to see the shininess but ....oh well.


The images were each bordered in my idea of manly colors and sort of arranged themselves into this chromatic progression. I had barely completed the top before our holiday trip back home so I packed the top up with some backing and batting and hoped my grandma would let me quilt it on her machine. And, of course, she did, exclaiming and offering words of encouragement the whole time.


I attacked that quilt with any design that seemed remotely related to electrical engineering. I quilted "E"s all around the border, along with words like "ohms", "resistance" and "potentiometer". Each of the borders around the pictures featured a unique quilting pattern. My two favorites are the ones featuring a light bulb and plug, and a light switch and outlet. I bound the whole thing with a pieced binding. This all happened over two days.


I watched my grandad like a hawk when he opened his present: his one present. First he seemed to be thinking "what the heck is a quilt doing in this box" and then it transformed to "oh my goodness she actually did it" and then as he took the whole thing in I think I even saw a tear. (Note: We also included a gift certificate to an electronics store to appease my husband who was highly distressed at the idea of "only" giving my grandad the quilt. So, we can presume it was a happy tear.)


This quilt hung on my grandparents' wall for a few years before retiring to a bedroom. Until now I had only one printed photo of it and so I was happy to get some better documentation of it during my recent trip home.

Telling this story reminds me that it feels so good to give a quilt to someone you love. While I wish I could have had nice custom printed fabric at that time, I still think the quilt stands as a sweet testament to our little inside joke, my grandad's field of expertise, and the special bond I share with both my grandparents. I'm also pretty sure it's the only quilt in existence featuring vintage electrical components and that thought makes me laugh. Thanks for reading, I know this was a rather long story! Hope you enjoyed it!

38 comments:

twodraftmom said...

what a wonderful quilt! thanks for sharing. Claire

live a colorful life said...

What a wonderful story. What a wonderful quilt!!!

kelly said...

this is incredible!!! you should submit it to quiltstory.

Bailey said...

So sweet! I totally cried while reading your wonderful story. That is definitely not "only a quilt" - thanks for sharing!

Val said...

Oh I loved this story. That is awesome. You will treasure this memory in your heart forever. I think the quilt is beautiful and full of love. Thanks for sharing this.

Jackie said...

I'm not sure there could be a more meaningful quilt found anywhere. Thank so much for sharing the story and this quilt with us. When I look at the pictures I can feel all the love your poured into it. Priceless!

Vicki W said...

It is a fabulous quilt and an even better story!

Anna said...

You might even see a happy tear if you look out into blogland right now - what a sweet wonderful quilt and its story. This is what its all about, why we all do it!

BubzRugz said...

A lovely story and lovely quilt - what a special quilt.... and so meaningful...
Hugz

jabeybaby said...

What a great quilt and story!

RamonaX said...

such a sweet story and it makes this quilt even more precious!!

Happy Cottage Quilter said...

What an amazing quilt. And what an amazing story! So glad that your granddad loved the quilt. It's so much more meaningful to the one who made it. Hope he will enjoy it for many years to come.

A Girl said...

Great quilt and story! My husband is also an electrical engineer and we have had this conversation as well. :) Thanks for sharing.

Dolly said...

I adored this story, Christina. It really resonates with me because my granddaughter was born on MY 46th birthday, and I will be totally blessed beyond measure if she should ever go to this extent for a gift for me.
The quilt is really beautiful and so totally unique !

Wow......what a wonderful story to share.

BillieBee (billiemick) said...

Fantastic quilt!

Gene Black said...

That is such a great story and a wonderful present. I love it.

Michelle said...

What an awesome quilt, and an inspiring, wonderful story.

Janet said...

I am glad you shared your story. You should save a copy of it for documentation purposes. The story brought tears to my eyes. It is a beautiful quilt. I like the quilting in it.

Wendy said...

First I love this quilt! It is awesome. Second, how wonderful that you drew his name so you could make the E..........quilt. What a wonderful story behind the quilt. This quilt will be a treasured piece of history for your family for generations to come. You should document the story not only with pictures but with the story of the quilt in writing for the future generations that this lovely quilt will be handed down to. I enjoyed reading about this special quilt. Very heart warming.

Sarah Craig said...

That is such an awesome story!! And I love that quilt..... your quilting is so creative!!

Mama Pea said...

What a great story and how great that you've documented it for your family. I think it's great, and you worked with the materials that were available at that time. I am with you on how good it feels to give a quilt to someone who understands the meaning of receiving a quilt!

Cheryll said...

Thanks for sharing a GrEaT story and pic's of a GrEaT quilt! Well Done!

Melissa said...

Oh my goodness, what a great story. I loved how the two of you shared the creation of this quilt together. Those parts look so real that for a minute I thought you somehow connected real parts to the quilt. I know you must have so much joy to be able to share that with your grandfather.

Leah said...

That is a wonderful story. My grandfather and I didn't share a birthday, but his was 10 days after mine and he would start a countdown to my birthday and then add 10 to figure out when his was.

Although we didn't share the love of engineering (I am an electrical engineer and think that is a wonderful quilt), we did share the love of flying and he was my first passenger when I got my pilots license.

mabblab said...

That is fabulous! I know he loved it -- and what a way to make a special quilt that includes his interests. This Christmas, my grandma will be getting her own quilt. She started a quilt, but never got beyond a strange-sized square patchwork. I added borders to make it twin-sized and am finishing it off. She gave it to me to sell on my vintage fabric site, but there's no way I could part with it -- except to give it back. I hope she enjoys it as much as your Grandpa enjoyed his quilt!

Looooooong comment for your fabulous long post! :)

Anne-Lise at Rag, Tag, Bobtail said...

Lovely story and wonderful quilt!

Jessica said...

Great story! My husband would love that idea!

Alison said...

Beautiful story! Thankyou for sharing it with the world.

Helen in the UK said...

I think you did a FANTASTIC job on the E--- quilt! Loved seeing the pictures and hearing the story. It is truely unique and will be a family treasure I'm sure :)

Maiasaura said...

Christina, this was so great. I know I haven't been by to comment in a while, but I do faithfully keep up with your posts. Someday I will get a nice sewing machine and then I'll look up all your great quilt-along tutorials in the archives.
The E quilt is wonderful to look at, and the story makes it so special. A wonderful read. I echo what everyone else said. :-)
Also, I like the new banner!

webmailaddress2 said...

OMG, that is TOO cute. What a lovely quilt for a lovely story!

Suzanne said...

That is an incredible labor of love.

bunbear said...

that was a beautiful story. thanks for sharing it.

elsie123 said...

It's the essence of quilting...so personalized, so unique. Great job. :)

Elsa said...

oh, how lovely this quilt is ... because you did it especially for your Grandfather and something that he is highly interested in. How thoughtful of you.

quilthexle said...

That's such a wonderful story - thanks for sharing!! your granddad is a lucky man, and I'm pretty sure you made him very very happy and proud of you. What a thoughtful gift.

Sand and Sunshine said...

Great Story

Darling Millie said...

The quilt is fabulous - but the STORY is priceless. Thanks!

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