Memory Quilts.

I've been busy with family, a dinner party and working on the Alphabet book.


Our Guild Meeting was on Thursday night and it was a great meeting. The theme was memory quilts…
I had no idea what the subject was for the evening, so I didn't take any of my quilts…
But in retrospect almost all of my quilts are "memory quilts"

Libby Lehman asked me recently how many quilts I'd sold over the years.
"None" I replied…. they're  like my children, I gave birth to them, how could I sell them.?

Now that's not to say that I had a few moments when my kids were teenagers where that evil thought crossed my mind.!!!!  "Sell 'em off to the highest bidder" (the kids that is)

My last memory quilt was American Gothic Revisited.

It's an American icon, so why would an Australian make a quilt like that.?

One competitive Australian Quilter made the comment….. "Oh, of course you won Best of Show, you made it for the American Market"

I just sighed…….She had no idea why I made that quilt, and the comment was painful…..

So this is the story of my Memory Quilt.

When I was 11, I was sent to live with my Grandparents who were Plymouth Brethren. I guess you would equate the religion with Amish in a way.

I had no radio, no books and I had to pray a lot and grow my hair…..

That didn't work for me, I chopped a little bit of hair off each week, I must have looked like a scarecrow, but it was disguised by the curls…. so my hair never grew…. I told my Nana it was slow growing…!!!!

I could read music, so I taught myself the piano and Mr Onley, the grumpy man in the workshop downstairs used to bang on the ceiling with a broom to stop me… so I just played louder and stomped back.

I drew, and drew, and drew……. one day, in the back of a cupboard I found a single copy of the Saturday Evening Post…..

I read it from cover to cover and hid it under my mattress. I loved one of the pictures in the magazine, American Gothic….. and I drew it over and over again.

I also loved the cover and I fell in love with Norman Rockwell right then….his painting spoke to me….and I've been a fan ever since.

I got to go home after a year, but I never forgot American Gothic.

Some 48 years later, a special person came into my life, Della Moon. A lady in her 70's who showed me a path through the trauma of my sons terrible accident… and was a support despite the tragedies she was experiencing..

Della lived in Indiana and I visited her many times. She in turn would turn up in my classes all over the USA…

On one occasion, I mentioned "American Gothic" to her and she told me the original was hanging in the Chicago Museum, which was about an hour from her house…..


Her brother Glen,a scholar from the Chicago University offered to squire me for the day if I drove the car. He was a fountain of knowledge, he took me to lunch in a wonderful German restaurant and then on to the Museum.

There I had the opportunity to see the original "American Gothic" and also an original Norman Rockwell. Needless to say, I was excited in the extreme.

 Like the viewers of the Mona Lisa… I was surprised at the size of the painting…. it was quite small.  In fact, about the size of the Mona Lisa, maybe just a little bigger.

The Painting drew quite a crowd, people stood around and talked about it in hushed tones….


I was in awe and marveled at the art of the artist, Grant Wood.

Della didn't go with us that day, she was feeling unwell. and I told her all about our journey when I returned to the house.

Just a few weeks later, Della was in a coma with a brain tumor.

I couldn't believe it. Not Della.

So I thought about re-creating the painting in fabric….. it wasn't for competition, it wasn't to please the American public…. it was to honor my friend Della.

Of course it took a considerable time to make the quilt… but every stitch reminded me of the time I spent with Della and her hearty laugh.

I remember the time I had to go to Paducah and accept an award. Della drove friend Di and I, we had our good clothes to put on after the trip… but when we arrived there was a huge crowd outside the auditorium and it was still locked… so, we had to change in the car in front of everyone…

One minute I was in my shorts and T shirt asking if the door was open…. back in the car and five minutes later we popped out in our glad rags….!!!!

Della a largish lady, just stripped off right in the front seat.. it was hilarious. Then aftr the awards, to celebrate we went to Cracker Barrel for dinner and sat in our fancy clothes on the rocking chairs out on the front porch.

So "American Gothic Revisited" is in memory of Della Moon. The antique quilt it is buttoned to, as a border, was purchased in Paducah when Della and I were searching the antique malls.

Memories that can't be sold, can't be extinguished and are precious.

Husband Keith decided I should enter the quilt in competition and I fought against if for a year, finally putting it into AQS.

Right up to the minute I sent it ……..I felt it shouldn't go. I'm not comfortable with the idea of competition as such.

I was in England, filming, I hadn't even given a thought to the judging of the quilt I was so wrapped up in the documentary. I opened my email late one evening, in fact, I think it was early morning…. there was an email from my friend Gay who had heard on the Australian Quilt list that the quilt had won Best of Show AQS.

I didn't believe it, so I had to go online and check the results… there it was….

Thank you Della.          Your memory resides in every stitch. I'm sure she made it happen.


8 Comments Add yours

  1. Chris John says:

    Keep going, I’m hanging off every word. These are the words which become part of your history. Thank you for sharing them. It is wonderful to know the story behind the quilt and the quilter.

  2. Christine says:

    Thank you for sharing your story and your heart — it illustrates why we should all hold our tongues when we don’t know what we are talking about. We rarely know what another person has gone through, so everyone deserves some slack.
    Your camel race story reminded me of the outrageous event by brother saw at a car race in Salmon, Idaho. The half-time entertainment was the local kids riding bicycles with baseball bats and balloons taped to their helmets. They just rode around trying to hit the balloons with the bats! The wild west lives on…

  3. Maree .W says:

    What a Lovely Story…THANKS for Sharing it with us Pam…and Congratulations.

  4. Linda Irby says:

    Pam, I am Linda Irby, a friend of Lisa and Rainee’s from Alamogordo. I enjoyed lunch, and Martha’s Quilt Shop in Ruidoso with you three back in the fall. Thank you for this memory you have shared. Take care of you.

  5. Candy says:

    Hi Pam, thanks for the Guild link. The girls showed great insight to arrange the
    evening. It could easily have flopped if members had not participated. What a wonderful time of sharing it was, highlighting the reasons we make our quilts and the healing power of that process. Thanks for sharing your story above. As you say every quilt has memories. Rosie’s stolen quilt was found and now has an ‘extra’ story. It was not damaged by it’s adventure. Candy

  6. Pam says:

    How great that Rosies quilt was recovered…I often wonder where my stolen ones are.?
    Tutor, Lecturer, Photographer, Author, Judge, Pattern designer.
    Author of 1776, Heartache, heritage and Happiness
    Blog and podcast
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  7. Deborah Williams says:

    Pam reading your story of American Gothic is so touching. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story of friendship and giving. I always loved this quilt because of the way you captured the expressions.

  8. Dianne says:

    Pam, You are awesome. I love this backstory of the quilt…so meaningful. Thank you for sharing.

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