As with most of my stories, this has a lot of background that needs to be filled in, so settle in with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. I’ll wait ’till your ready.
First of all, for my non-quilter readers, a charm quilt is a quilt made of one shaped patches in non-repeated fabrics. For example, a quilt could be made of squares, or triangle, rectangles, or diamonds. Within the quilt, each square, triangle, or diamond would be cut from a different fabric, then assembled and quilted. Often, this type of quilt provided lovely memories, as the charms might be cut from a child’s dress, a father’s shirt, or fabric given from a dear friend’s scrap basket.
In the years leading up to the millennium (2000, the only millennium during which I’ve been alive) quilters from around the world united online (and off) to commemorate this event in quiltery ways. I chose to participate in an online, world-wide charm exchange, which consisted of 24 different 2 1/2″ squares of fabric and a plain square with the quilter’s signature and home town written on it. These were put into a plastic bag, tucked into an envelope, and mailed off. In return, your exchange partner would send you the same . It was very exciting to go to the mailbox each day!
Remember, that in those days (long long ago) there were only one or two quilt chat sites, and they were clunky in terms of today’s groups. Coordinating efforts of this magnitude required determination and a fair degree of patience and ingenuity. I possess two of these qualities in abundance, one not so much. I’ll let you decide where my strengths lie.
Early on in the exchange, I determined that I had to get representation from all 50 states, and as many foreign countries as possible. This meant that my quilt was going to be big and complex, in size and execution! For the record, there are 2000 different charm fabrics in my quilt!
To relieve the text, here is a photo of my Y2K quilt:
To give you more insight into my particular quilt (and to emphasize the importance of documenting your quilts with a label!), here is what my label says:
“This charm quilt features 2000 different fabrics to commemorate the new millennium; the red sashing/border fabric provides an additional fabric for those who believe that the milliennium begins in the year 2001! Coordinating fabric trades through online quilt guilds, 145 quilters from around the world exchanged 2 1/2” squares of fabric with me beginning in November 1998. All 50 states are represented, as is South Africa, Canada, Australia, England, Scotland, Hungary, Singapore, Japan, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Korea, and St. Croix. The most difficult states to obtain were Nevada, Delaware, and Vermont. By the end of the exchange effort, the only quilter I found in Nevada had contracted to exchange with over 600 women! By contrast, my first Vermont quilter was a friend of an online friend, who agreed to send out fabric and signatures to a few women, even though she herself was not making a Y2K quilt. This effort was dubbed “Operation Vermont”, and the woman’s kindness was rewarded with a wall-hanging made with fabric which we all sent to her with our thanks. One quilter was generous enough to share some precious fabric she brought from Russia. A Florida quilter solicited my help in locating her birth mother in Chicago. We were successful, and I treasure the memories of joy shared from this reunion.
In truth, I never meant to make this quilt. At the time, I had no sewing machine, and no free time as we were in the process of selling our house in Chicago, packing and moving to California. With an 18 month old son, and my second son on the way, the last thing I thought I needed was a project this large in scope. However, in October 1998, my dearest friend died in childbirth; I found myself in desperate need of something to distract me from my sadness. The hours spent cutting and sorting fabric, sending and receiving “squishies” (as the envelopes of fabric were dubbed) was the perfect preoccupation. The ultimate kindness of all of these women soothed me and helped me regain my balance.”
Yes, that is all written by hand on a label. Yes, I have always been wordy. And how glad I am; reading this label brings back all the excitement and memories of fun times spent working on this quilt! Label label label– make sure you document your quilts. This post does have a point, and while it’s fun to lecture to you all on the importance of labeling your work, that is not today’s point.
Keep reading; there’s an end in sight and it’s a good one!
According to the National Survey of Quilting, there are 27 million quilters in the U.S. (in 2006, the most recent year these statistics are available) 27 million! There were 21 plus million in 2000. I mention this, because I am about to dazzle you with not only my ability to recall the smallest detail as it relates to quilting (although I usually can’t remember what I did yesterday, nor the names of my children), but also with the coziness of the quilting world in the face of all these millions.
I am currently in the process of selling some stuff online. Quilt stuff, sewing stuff. On quilt groups and sewing groups. Online. I was contacted by a woman in Indianapolis regarding one of the quilt gadgets I have listed for sale. Her name seemed familiar.
I got out my Y2K quilt, and there, among the 2000 2″ squares of fabric, is her signature charm, sparkling like a jewel.