Friday, 1 February 2013

Sew I swim

I learned to swim as a child because my parents came from Ontario where everybody spends their summer at "the lake" and you don't want your kids to drown.  Not the most necessary skill, mind you, growing up in Calgary where there were two indoor pools and no lakes for miles (or provinces).  For years after moving to Northern Alberta, I didn't even own a bathing suit.

Not knowing what I was getting into, I registered my children for the swim club.  They liked the water, it was across the street from their school and it seemed like a way to be active in the summer time.  Oh, yes, the pool was an outdoor one, open from mid May to mid August.  I should have suspected something when my six year old daughter came home from practice to tell me she had signed us up for every meet that year (10 meets, 10 different towns, 14 week season).  Over the next few years, I became an official and discovered I enjoyed being on deck.  Then the taste of officiating at national and international meets - bigger, faster swimmers, tighter suits, interesting tattoos...  I had become a full fledged swimming groupie.  But still no bathing suit.

Here's an early quilt paying homage to my children's love of the water.  The story is that my daughter got very early swimming lessons because she loved to jump into any body of water - including the deep end of the local pool at the start of her first lesson ever.  And as a new lifeguard, her first class included five crazy boys who returned the favour and one girl scared of the water.

By 2004, it looked like my days of living at the pool were coming to a close.  My children were adults and no longer swimming competitively.  The last (I thought) event was volunteering as meet manager for the provincial meet which gave me an excuse to create a memory quilt and get swimmers and fellow officials to sign it.

Here's the quilt with my thoughts at the time.  It still has a special place where I can see it as I quilt.

Under Alberta Skies

Patchwork Cottage Challenge


for Alberta’s Centennial and My Semi Centennial

Like any good story, this quilt can be read at many different levels.  At first look, a map of Alberta with happy birthday fireworks for our centennial celebrations and, as suggested by the title, my 50th birthday this summer.

Look a little closer, is there a pattern here?  The fireworks cluster toward the bottom half of the Province, as do our cities and towns. If you look closely, there are even subtle lines dividing the province into six interesting parts.

When I think of Alberta skies, I instantly think of the swimming pools and swimming communities that I have spent my summers at for the last 15 years.  Each firework represents one of the Summer Swimming Clubs in the Province and the divisions are the six regions. Boundaries that define but that are meant to be crossed, as do the fireworks, when swimmers meet and compete with others across the province.

As I stitched the fireworks, I found I was experiencing my Province in a tactile way – how close some towns are, how truly huge are the distances in Northern Alberta, the patterns of how swimming communities develop.  I thought as well of the hundreds of people I’ve met over the years because of my children’s involvement in swimming. 

Read, as well, this quilt as a celebration of all that I’ve learned since I chose to become a quilter in 2000.

The first course I ever took at Patchwork Cottage was crazy quilting and I purposely used the same pattern for the sky - like border of this quilt and to symbolize the crazy quilt nature of Alberta. 

That day, I vividly remember learning the basics of how to hold my rotary cutter and how to iron my seams, while a group of Quilters were oohing and aahing about a huge quilt made of one inch squares (I would NEVER do that, I said).  Times have changed, and I just had to fashion my ground in one inch squares in celebration of how far I’ve come.

Thank you to all the teachers who have shared their knowledge and enthusiasm –
Alice - bindings and machine quilting
Margie – fabric dying
Linda – fabric painting, thread play, pushing the envelope
Helen – fireworks
Dena – structured fabric
Mary – “try this interfacing, trust me, it will work” and all her old time wisdom
Guy – whose swimming map I used as a pattern, and whose patience with passing on his computer knowledge is limitless.

Of course, the reality was that I was having so much fun at the pool that I just kept finding swim meets to work at and swimmers to watch and enjoy their skills.

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