I (Marion) come from a long line of women who made their living as seamstresses. Not from my mother but from her sisters, her mother, her grandmother, on and on. I learned to sew as a young girl and by the time I was 12, I was making suits for myself and my sisters. Somehow, I never caught the quilting bug. When I wasn’t sewing outfits, needlepoint and embroidery were my hobbies. My mom, Grace, had four older sisters but was very close to her sister Bella who was only a year older. Growing up Gracie and Bella were inseparable. Bella was my godmother.
1941 photo of Bella Picheria, 21, (left) and Grace Brown, 20.
Back in 1976 my Aunt Bella invited my mother and me to lunch one Saturday afternoon. She had purchased a kit for a double-bed quilt. After closer inspection I realized it wasn’t just a quilt kit. Before you even got to the quilting, you had to cross stitch the scene. Aunt Bella said she had seen it in a magazine and fell in love with the house on it . . . . and could I make it for her. Of course, I said yes.
Cross stitching that quilt took me months and months and months. Much to my mother’s frustration, it became a permanent part of the living room décor. Night after night I heard her say “when are you going to finish that thing, your aunt is asking?” I finally finished the cross stitch and I can remember my mom standing in the middle of the living room throwing her arms in the air and exclaiming “FINALLY” at the sight of the completed cross stitch. I also remember the look on her face when I said, “Now we have to quilt it.” At that moment, my mother, whose sewing skills didn’t go beyond button sewing, and I began our quilting project. Since it was a kit, the quilting lines were printed on the fabric. While that made it easier for us, it also presented us with a huge elaborate pattern. I don’t remember how long it took us to finally finish the quilting. I do know that had my mother not jumped in there, it probably never would have been finished. But all that work was worth it when we finally presented the quilt to a delighted Aunt Bella. While my love of quilting began with this project, my mother turned in her needle and thread and never made another quilt.
Aunt Bella treasured that quilt for many years. Thirty years after we gave it to her, she returned it to me. My mother had just died and she felt I should have it since it was the only project we had ever worked on together. The quilt that was made for Aunt Bella with so much love and that she had cherished all those years, was returned to me, again out of love.