A quilter's special treasures find new life
When quilts are sewn, the beauty of the fabric and design are apparent. In addition to the fabrics for the decorative and lining side, most quilts enclose a warm middle layer. Of course, it takes time and skill to sew and finish any quilt. And there are hidden ingredients not listed on the label--each quilt has a story to tell, and every quilt is made with love.
About a dozen years ago, the enjoyment of sewing led Cayutaville resident Barbara Jastran to invite a neighboring quilter, the late Camilla Schade. Schade was also a celebrated playwright, director and actor. They each invited more people to meet with them one afternoon each month and the informal group of eight to 10 members came to call themselves the Cayutaville Sewing Collective, even though some of the newer people don't quilt--yet. Instead, they knit or crochet or do other fiber crafts. They learn from each other as they spend productive and social time as a circle of friends with complementary interests.
Three years ago, when Schade died, her husband Bruce Fearon offered the group her stash of quilt fabrics. The riot of color included a variety of glorious batiks. Because Hope Rainbow, a member of the sewing circle, was planning to get married, seven of them worked together in secret to create a quilt using some squares Schade had already sewn to gift to the bride- to-be.
They were aided in their secret-keeping by the pandemic, which for some time made it impossible to meet. The non-sewers in the group washed and ironed fabric to prepare for the quilters. People worked on their squares at home--there are 42 of them on this queen-sized quilt--and met, masked and outdoors in June 2020 to lay out the arrangement of squares and share stories of Camilla. Their working "easel" was Jastan's barn door. Then the three most experienced quilters put the squares together, with dark borders between them to set off the bright colors. Karen Thrall, a cousin of the collective member Janet McCue, quilted it on her long-arm machine. Another member of the group embroidered a label with the quilt's name, "Camilla's Gift," and the date of the wedding for Hope and Tim Reap. Several new quilters got a lesson in binding a quilt from Jastran as they helped with the finishing.
Others who worked on the quilt were Suzanne Anderson, Judy Appleton, Joanna Bock, Cathy Demarest, Kelly Dietz, Dianna Frank, and Aafka Steenhuis, another of Schade's close friends.
Some nine-patch squares had previously been sewn by Schade, and those were honored with special embroideries. Among them are a "C" for Camilla, a portrait of the couple's dog, outlines of the states the groom and bride lived in before their marriage--New York and Idaho--and a picture of the house the couple built. There are also two special squares from projects Schade started. One is a humorous crescent moon, the other an appliquéd hand holding a heart. "That's Camilla's hand," Jastran says.
Rainbow says she keeps coming back to look at that part of the quilt as well. After she and her husband were married in Buffalo two years ago, they returned home to find the quilt spread across their bed with a loving note from their friends. "I was very surprised," she says now. "I had no idea they were working on it."
Schade's stash of fabric is a gift that keeps inspiring more quilty gifts--this year two small quilts made from some extra blocks were given to Hope's new baby Harriet, and to another non-quilting neighbor. And there's still some of Schade's fabric left, stored for the group in Jastran's studio. "I can't wait to see what comes to life from it," she says.
"Camilla's Gift" is on display at the Montour Falls Library until Sept. 30. Situated in a sunny bay window, it glows like stained glass. Then it moves briefly to the Tompkins County Quilter's Guild show, "Traditions and Beyond," at Tompkins Cortland Community College in Dryden, Oct. 1 and 2, before being returned to Rainbow and Reap's bed.
For more information about the upcoming quilt show, look for the Tompkins County Quilters Guild on Facebook. Find Montour Falls Public Library hours at montourfallslibrary.org or call 607-535-7489.