Journal Entry: April 18, 2020.

Friendship Quilts bring together the bond between family and friends.

I bet if people are asked what they miss the most in the time of Coronavirus social distancing they will say the interactions with other people. It’s one of those things we aren’t likely to think about. As an active society, we take it for granted that we can be with family and friends every day.

I think I came to my apex of feeling the void of outside humans in my life last week. I sensed that other folks were in the same place because I actually conversed with family, past co-workers and friends every day. And, I didn’t initiate all of them. One of our friends reached out to suggest we meet with another couple over a Zoom cocktail hour. We’ve regularly shared gourmet meals and wine with these friends for over 25 years. It was awesome to see them real-time and to catch up on their lives. Afterwards, I felt that we had had visitors at our house (albeit, without our usual food share). We also had another leisurely conversation with my brother that night. We really can stay close during this time of physical separation.

You might ask by now, what does social distancing and missing family and friends have to do with a quilter exchange? Why, it’s all about friendship and how it can be conveyed through quilt making and quilt giving!

Morgan with her Friendship Quilt.
Friendship quilts date back to the 1800’s.

As legends pass through generations, it’s believed the first Friendship quilts appeared during the mid-1800’s with Victorian quilters and homesteaders in the days of the cross-country migration in the United States. People left their family homes to move far away. Most often they left without a hope of ever seeing any of their community again. As a remembrance, family members and friends made Friendship quilts to give to those departing. These quilts were cherished for the memories of loved ones and the times once shared.

Friendship quilts were typically made with a pieced one-block design. One of its patches was reserved for a signature and date. Today, quilters most often give these quilts to celebrate a wedding, birthday, graduation, retirement, or other special occasion.

One of the blocks Morgan’s friends marked for her Friendship Quilt.

My only attempt to make a traditional Friendship quilt was with an idea I had for my oldest granddaughter Morgan’s birthday gift last year. Thinking about the meaning of friendships, and knowing how much my grandchildren are missing face-to-face time with their friends right now, I decided to share my gift to her with you.

As many of you may know it’s really hard to figure out what to give grandchildren. After a certain age, you aren’t as aware of their wishes and dreams. I do know that “experiences” are really trending with younger folks, so I decided to give Morgan a quilt experience—one to share with her friends. And, I had the joy of sharing the experience with her remotely.

Morgan had a sleepover scheduled with friends to celebrate her 14th birthday. I sent her a gift box of pre-made 12-1/2″ quilt blocks and a variety of permanent markers, with minimal guidelines about mark making on the quilt blocks. The box included a note to remind everyone to sign their blocks and I also added a couple extra blocks, just in case there was need for a do-over.

Permanent Markers of various sizes for Friendship Quilt mark making: Chisel tip, Brush and Fine points

I chose the Snowball quilt block, leaving lots of room for mark making in the solid gray center. Once the blocks returned to my house I added colorful print Nine-Patch blocks and four filler blocks to the corners to make a 60″ x 60″ throw size quilt.

A Friendship Quilt for Morgan

I couldn’t miss joining in the fun of adding my own signature block to the quilt. My block was added as a label on the back of the quilt, a heart that I place on the back of all her quilts from me. I surrounded the heart with a few phrases about the meaning of friendship.

This birthday gift idea was perfect. I only wish I could have been a fly on the wall as Morgan and friends chattered away while making their marks on fabric. Think about birthdays coming up in your family. Plan a party or sleepover and start making some quilt blocks now! It won’t be long before we’ll be together in one place again.