THE FABRIC OF OUR LIVES
Story and photos by Mardi Ford
ELGIN Woven throughout the fabric of their lives is the story of who they are. Conscientiously pieced together, the quilt on Keith and Ann Warren's bed is a magnificently detailed work of art that tells the tale of a lifetime.
"Six months in the making," Ann says. Two years in the planning, Keith adds. The quilt is called "The Fabric of Our Lives" and it is Ann's birthday present for Keith.
As her long fingers softly smooth the center panel, Ann says, "I knew I wanted to incorporate a Tree of Life' here in the center and use the nine-squares (a quilt design) on each side and the spools (another design), but I really had no vision for the end product." She pauses. "But a quilt will tell you what it's supposed to be," she adds. "Our lives are like a quilt pieced together of little snippets. They all come together and make something."
This unique quilt tells Keith and Ann's story a mosaic of color, pattern and details that are meaningful to them.
"This fabric is from Keith's honeymoon pajamas, which is an oxymoron," Ann laughs. Her enthusiasm for a family she loves and a hobby at which she excels is contagious.
"All the white pieces are from my maternal grandmother's linen table cloth. This is a piece of Keith's grandmother's square dance dress. They called her Little Mary she lived on a ranch in Echo. When Keith was full grown, she stood under his outstretched arm and came right under his armpit."
The roll call of memory continues as Ann points out fabric from her son David's pajamas here, her daughter Rebecca's pinafore over there.
The former life of one blue and white seersucker piece was as a maternity smock that Ann's mother had cut out for herself but never finished. When Ann became pregnant with David, her mother sent the pieces and the pattern to Ann and she finished the maternity smock for
A black piece with brilliant blue flowers came from Ann's mother's square dance dress. As a child, Ann recalls watching her mother getting ready to go out dancing in that dress.
"I remember watching her check her image in the mirror. First she smoothed one stray eyebrow like this then she smoothed her hair back like this." Ann mimics the action, recalling the revealing moment. "I realized that my mother was happy with her looks." Ann still has the
She flashes a wide, bright smile and continues with her story. The quilt Ann has made mirrors her own personality warm, colorful, inclusive and happy. Her nickname, she admits, has always been Pollyanna.
From the Tree of Life in the center the quilt radiates out into nine squares of different gingham checks and Grandma's linen tablecloth and on to the spools all unique.
"There are about 50 different fabrics in the Tree of Life," Ann points to the center panel of her quilt. She hasn't counted the total number of fabrics in the entire quilt yet. "That would be an interesting project. I'll have to do that," she says but guesses there must be at least 100.
When designing, Ann likes to "audition" fabrics for her quilts. Hanging partially finished quilts on the wall of her sewing room, she adds a piece of fabric for consideration.
"I taught my granddaughter about auditioning fabrics when she was here." Ann is passing her passion of quilting to a new generation. "She made that," she points to a small red and blue quilt square hanging nearby.
The original intent for a border on Keith's quilt was the picket fence pattern, she says. It seemed to fit the theme. But after auditioning a second white fabric and the picket pattern, both she and Keith realized it wasn't going to "hold" the rest of the work.
Keith's suggestion was a dark navy blue with white stars. At first Ann thought, "No, that's not going to work, either." But after she auditioned the piece, it ended up being the perfect choice.
"You never know," she says. And she likes the fact that Keith was involved in the process of his very personal quilt.
Reaching across the top and bottom of the spread are "the neighborhoods" as Ann calls them. Representations of the six homes three in Portland and three in Elgin where the Warrens have lived. It begins with the building where, as newlyweds in 1964, they rented their first apartment. The final "neighborhood" is the home they built in Elgin five years ago.
In between is their little "starter" house, the bigger home they lived in for 31 years and where they raised their two children, the rustic cabin north of Elgin they bought as a vacation spot, and the duplex where they spent the winter before their new house was finished. The six "neighborhoods" are strung together by a clothesline, upon which hangs a unique mini-quilt outside each house.
In the top corners are song birds. Even the musical notes Ann embroidered near the beaks of the birds in one corner mimic the songs of two birds special to the nature-loving
In each bottom corner are two baskets of colorful flowers embellished with Ann's detailed embroidery.
Ann made her first quilt in 1978. It was a family effort and a present for Ann's mother. Family members made their own squares, then tied the quilt together. It lies neatly in a spare bedroom where another quilt Ann made from challenge fabric covers the bed.
The challenge quilt is a fun project where each member of Ann's quilting group the Blue Mountain Quilters brought a fabric for another member. It could be a bizarre pattern or a wild color, or not. But the idea was to trade the challenge fabric with someone else who must add other fabrics and design a beautiful quilt around the challenge fabric.
Across the hall in their grandchildren's room are several quilts Ann made on the beds. On display are a very old quilt made by Little Mary and Keith's baby quilt, which also warmed their children and grandchildren until its retirement.
She points out a few places where the fabric has deteriorated. "I think I'm going to try and replace these pieces," she says.
Ann has more time to do some of these projects after being diagnosed with a congenital heart disease last year, which has forced her to slow down her full-throttle pace. However, the quilting continues, as does her work for her church and the Bible study group she leads.
"My life is going in a little different direction," says the admitted powerhouse workaholic. But it hasn't been easy for her as she grieves for the old Ann who lived life without limits and took care of everyone else.
"I'm the one who has to be taken care of now and that's ... different," she says with a wide-eyed grin.
She settles into her chair at the sewing machine and puts the peddle to the carpet.
"I believe all things work to the good for those who love the Lord," She says. "I just can't do everything I used to do. My ministry has changed, but God has other work for me to do."