I spent a lovely 48 hours for the Bank Holiday weekend with my family in Cambridgeshire. Because of working weekends such family time is few and far between. Arriving at 9pm on Saturday night to a welcoming bowl of hot chilli, fresh bread and incessant chat was like an instant detox.

My niece, Alice, was preparing to head back to Edinburgh University, so the sitting room was piled high with boxes of books, essential supplies, mounds of warm winter clothes and a few luxuries squeezed into spare corners. It was rather like an explorer preparing for an expedition (not surprising seeing as her Dad works for British Antarctic Survey)!

One bulky item definitely heading north is a huge Bargello patchwork quilt sewn by my Mum, Mavis, and this got me thinking about other quilts that have grown up with Alice over the years. Her first cot quilt was individual, colourful and perhaps a curious choice of pattern for a baby quilt. It was a simple, plain Amish Pinwheel - in jewel bright and subtle tones. A lovely little quilt which moved from cot to wall as Alice grew. And the adjectives of individual, colourful and curious were so appropriate, not just for the quilt, but for Alice too.

A 'big bed' quilt followed - this time a string pieced scrappy quilt in soft pastels and and cream. Using a favourite technique, Mavis included tiny scraps, favoured fat quarters and I am sure, newly bought, must-have fabrics. The result is a happy, uncomplicated quilt, used and enjoyed over many years - probably now slightly faded through repeated washings and with perhaps a few snagged quilting stitches, from being dragged around the house and garden in its life as a blanket, tent, princess cape and picnic rug.

And now the big Bargello. This was a quilt that Mum sewed over a workshop weekend - but was never one of her favourites. Probably as she admits because the pattern was super-complicated, although the end result is a stunning quilt. But Alice needed a bigger quilt for warmth, and no doubt a feeling of home and chose this quilt (from the many available!) to take with her. And so the cycle of making quilts for loved ones continues.

So for all those parents, aunties, and Nans out there frantically putting the last stitches into quilts for students. Forget the late night quilting, pricked fingers and unpicked blocks. Just think of the love that you are stitching into every patch and the good wishes that you are quilting into every layer. Quilts are family history in the making and are cherished for years to come.
 

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