This quilt of stars was made to celebrate the life of Augusta de Jager (1 October 1957 — 9 December 2020). How does one begin to write a post about the loss of a quilting companion and a vibrant member of our small town community? With difficulty. To help deal with the harsh fact of her death, the QUOGs (Quilters of Grahamstown) made a quilt in her memory and gave it to her husband, Strauss, with our love and the hope that it would bring some comfort. This post is about the making of the quilt.
First I wish to bid Augusta farewell and thank her for the convivial memories of stitching and supping together, for the fascinating conversations and the laughter. The QUOGs have been meeting for nearly 30 years and it is ironic that COVID-19 took one of the younger members of the group. But Augusta was a determined and intrepid educator who did not hide herself away.
During Christmas time the thought to make a quilt of stars to celebrate Augusta’s life settled itself in my head and refused to go away. The group agreed that it was a good idea and we talked about where to start. The Crazy Star has long been a favourite of the group and, at a workshop some years ago, Augusta had made very large stars so that she would be able to quickly finish a quilt for a gift. The pattern lends itself to making stars of different sizes in a free and easy way by using the stack, slash, and swop method. One ends with a set of wonky stars of more or less the same width which can be trimmed and stitched into rows.
Of course there was discussion about the size of the blocks and the colour palette. But the crazy aspect won out and we all made stars from fabrics that reminded us of her, or which she had given as gifts in the past. There were no instructions to make them a set size. The contributors kindly stitched them into rows, which made the final assembly quick and easy.
We held a Saturday workshop during February where we made stars. Some members opted to make their stars at home and deliver them, others found that they already had some in their UFO stashes, and others puzzled over the instructions that had been emailed to everyone. It was remarkable how quickly the quilt grew and how much fun we had, despite the underlying sadness. It was also good to share memories about Augusta as we spent the day stitching.
The next step was to turn the strips of stars into a square quilt. Again, this happened remarkably easily. Three of us gathered for a morning and set about joining rows of the same width. Once we had strips of more or less equal length we joined the strips and, hey presto, we had a queen sized bed quilt top. I had never thought it would end up being so big. Everyone contributed with gusto.
Busy bees assembling the quilt and the final composition.
We left the quilt top in two sections so that it would be easier to quilt on my domestic sewing machine, in straight lines, with a walking foot. I volunteered to do this and Karen then bound it quickly and efficiently. We got it done in record time — just as well as autumn is drawing in and the nights are getting colder.
And so life continues. When I asked Strauss for permission to publish a blog about his quilt he sent me the text of a forthcoming column he had written for the local newspaper’s Soul Food section. His piece is about Easter and autumn and is titled “Dear Lord, may all these days be sanctified” (Guy Butler’s translation of the opening line of the Afrikaans poem “Vroegherfs” [Early Autumn] by N.P. van Wyk Louw). In the article he writes about coming to terms with loss:
As the glorious green remnants of summer fall around us during these days of autumn, may the showy and vain leaves of pride also fall from our lives. And so may all these days indeed be sanctified. In my personal walk I have come to regard the season of losing my wife, Augusta, to COVID-19, also as holy days. From the time at the end of November when I intensely prayed for her healing, up to the present time of dealing with her death, it has been one, longer than usual, autumn season in my life. The season of loss of precious, but temporary, things, also brings with it growth though, and ripening and becoming stronger.Strauss de Jager, Dominee, NG Kerk