My mother, Hazel Margaret Johnson, was born on May 21st, 1922, on a farm in Penn, North Dakota. She and her twin sister, Helen, were delivered by a midwife at the family’s farm home. It’s amazing to think about how different things would have been for such an event today.
Magdalena on left, Hazel and Helen as young girls
Eventually the family moved to a farm that my grandfather homesteaded near Edinburg, North Dakota. Mom and her sister and two brothers lived there until they graduated from high school and went to college.
Helen and Hazel with dolls
Helen and Hazel with their brother, Ernest
My mother became a registered nurse and her twin, Helen, became a teacher. Later my grandparents retired and my uncle, Nick, took over the farm. Today his son (and my cousin, Jeff) continues to farm the land.
John, Helen, Grandpa John, Hazel, Magdalena & Ernest
I loved to hear the stories of their childhood escapades, including the time when they swapped dates (they were identical) to see how long it would take their boyfriends to figure out he was with the other twin. They also played tricks on teachers and really were quite the pair.
Hazel & Helen at the Train Station
When they both married, my mother moved out of state, so they didn’t get to see one another as often. But, they talked to each other usually several times a week. It was amazing how they had this twin radar that enabled them to sense when the other twin was not feeling well or needed some support, etc. When the two twins got together, I have so many fond memories of the escapades we got to be a part of; they were quite the pair.
In 2005, at the age of 83, my mother passed away with lymphoma. Her death created a void in my life that will never be filled. I think about Mom often and so many times wish I could share different things with her. She would have been delighted to meet our grandchildren and she so enjoyed family get-togethers.
Mom and me in 2003
Sometimes, when I am missing her, I call my Aunt Helen. It is a bit surreal in that her voice is very much like my mother’s (although I could always tell them apart).
Recently on one such occasion, shortly after Mother’s Day, I gave her a call to wish her an early Happy 90th Birthday. We talked for a while and then she mentioned that she was a bit chilly, due to the air conditioning at the retirement center where she now lives. It was at that time that I knew just what I should send her for her birthday – a lap quilt to help chase the chill away. Since her big occasion was only a week away, I had to quickly figure out what I was going to make.
One of my goals this year is to pull more fabric from my stash for current projects. I knew I wanted to make a lightweight flannel quilt, so I pulled some containers of flannel fabric from my stash, to see what I had on hand.
A sampling of some of the flannels in my stash
I found the perfect choice of fabrics for Helen. She loves flowers and I had a lovely piece of flannel with an assortment of flowers on it for the main focus fabric. I also chose several coordinating fabrics and then sat down to design the quilt layout on my Electric Quilt software program.
The next step was to fussy cut each of the flowers so that I could center them in each quilt square.
Fussy cutting and centering the flannel flower pieces
Now it was time to cut the strips for the sashing and corner stones for each block. Once done, I laid out the blocks to determine the placement for each of the blocks.
Determining layout of quilt on flannel design board
Next, I sewed the sashings and corner blocks together.
Getting ready to press seams after they have been joined together
When the center section of the quilt was sewn together, I measured the final length and width to determine how long to cut the outside border pieces. Then I sewed on the outside border, which was the final step for piecing the top of the quilt.
Sewing on outside border
I went to my favorite local quilt store, The Quilt Crossing, to pin baste the top, batting and backing of the quilt together.
Pin Basting the layers of the quilt together.
Once it was basted, I returned home to quilt the quilt. I attached my Bernina Stitch regulator and did a free motion large stipple quilt stitch on the blocks that were on the perimeter of the quilt. For the inside blocks, I did a free motion simple echo or outline stitch around each flower.
Large free motion stippel stitch used to quilt outside flower blocks
Next, I attached my walking foot and stitched in the ditch around the inside and outside border. I didn’t want to do a lot of quilting because I wanted the quilt to be nice and soft.
Stitching in the ditch on outside border
To bind the quilt, I decided to simply fold the backing over to the front side and then miter each corner. Since this quilt will not get a lot of heavy use, this was a good solution. In addition, this is faster to do than the traditional binding method that I usually use to bind a quilt.
Sewing the binding down on the quilt edge
Once the binding was sewn down by machine, I sewed each corner down by hand and the lap quilt was almost complete.
The finishing touch was to put a label on the back of the quilt. I used my embroidery software to accomplish this and first designed the label on my computer.
Screenshot of the label I designed for the quilt
Next, I stitched out the label I had designed onto a piece of fabric, using my embroidery module.
Creating the label in my embroidery module
I trimmed the label and pressed under the outside edges and hand stitched it to the back of the quilt. The quilt for my Aunt Helen was finally complete and ready to priority mail so it would get there in time for her big event.
Today was the day for her big birthday celebration and I was thrilled that the quilt arrived in Park River, North Dakota yesterday – as scheduled. Doesn’t it feel good when things go as planned?
Earlier today, my brother, Mark, sent me the following photo of my dear Aunt Helen with her quilt. It was the reward for all the effort and love that went into her quilt. Best of all, she was very pleased with it.
Aunt Helen with her new quilt
Happy 90th Birthday to my dear Aunt Helen!
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