Monday, February 15, 2010

The Sansei Quilt - A Love Story

My first sighting of the Quilt as it appeared in the new restaurant
The phone rang. A familiar voice greeted me, "Hi mom". A little chitchat with my daughter and then the famous words “Mom can you do something for me?” Now what mom can resist a request like that? She continued “remember how you made a friendship quilt for the pastor's wife?” Hesitantly I replied “yeah” wondering what was coming next. “Well the workers and I thought it would be really cool to give one to Sansei's mom.”

A sampling of the fabric used in the quilt

My daughter at this time worked for Sansei Restaurant in Honolulu. Most of the crew consisted of young kids about her age. The owner’s mother Sandy was like a mother to them, helping them on the job, listening to them, encouraging them, and being a mentor and good role model. Her love for her son, his restaurant, his crew and his patrons shone through. She lit up the restaurant whenever she was there. It was her love for her son and for people that drove her. So I agreed to help the crew make this surprise gift for her. It was to be presented at their annual Christmas party. We agreed to get the plans laid out for it, buy the muslin, paints, get the workers to decorate their squares, and have everything ready for me to start sewing by Thanksgiving. Well my daughter became sick and there was a delay in the plans. She worked hard to get the crew to paint their squares. I finally received them on my birthday, December 8th. Oh boy only two weeks to put this baby together! Still much can be accomplished when a mother's love is involved.

I had already begun to shop for fabric. I looked for Japanese looking fabrics that had some purple in them. I knew I wanted the purple becausThe Sensei logo done on fabrice one of the requirement for the quilt was that it have the restaurant’s logo on it - a big purple octopus! My daughter had faxed me the logo with the instructions that it was to include the words Sansei’s Mom. I painted the octopus, laser printed the words, and iron transferred them around the octopus, and then painted them gold. The letters didn't stand out enough so I embroidered around them (by hand of course) in gold thread. I work full-time so mind you I'm squeezing all this into an already full schedule.

Once I received the squares I could start laying out the quilt. And were they colorful! It was an odd number of squares so I had the top and bottom laid out but wasn't sure how to do the center. My daugher called me one day and shared her dream, seems “I had shipped the quilt to her and as she excitedly opened the quilt there was this large, empty hole smack dab in the center. Confused and alarmed she called on her sewing cousin to try and salvage the quilt.” I laughed and explained to her the dilemma I was having with the layout. She said she was going to pray for me and that must have worked as the layout came to me shortly after that. As you can see it worked out okay!A sampling of the painted squares
I added a hanging sleeve and finished stitching the binding on by hand the morning of the party. My husband agreed to take the quilt over to her. As he left on the plane it was all I could do to drive back home and collapse from exhaustion. How I would have loved to be there as my daughter saw it and as it was presented to Sansei’s mom! But sleepless nights and nonstop sewing prevented me from going.

Building that quilt was quite the challenge, from designing, to shopping for just the right fabric, to mad dashes to the store for more of one fabric. Once, my husband had to drive me on a 50 mile round trip in monsoon like weather just to get me to the store before they closed. (I had called to make sure they had what I needed and would hold it for me.)
The quilt as it was hanging in the restaurant
Needless to say my daughter was surprised and thrilled by the quilt. She said “I thought you would just sew the squares together”. (lol) And Sandy, Sansei’s mom, was overjoyed with the gift. I was able to meet her and her husband and the crew later. She told me how she cried and cried because she was so touched by the thoughtfulness of the staff and the love I put into the making of the quilt. Sandy decided to have the quilt mounted behind Plexiglas and hung in the restaurant for all to enjoy. She felt bad and apologized more than once because the framers had to remove my hand stitching of the binding in order to stretch it.

After it was hung in the restaurant I had a chance to visit her again. We laughed together because - well the bottom was a little wavy after being stretched. But Sandy said it was like ocean waves. She always pointed out how wonderful the fabric selection was “this reminds me of the mountains of Oahu, and that reminds me of …” but always the love shown through.

A few years later I had a chance to go back to Oahu for a two-day class. As I was on the web checking out the hotel where I would be staying I discovered her son had opened a restaurant in the hotel. I was excited but not sure how I would get to the restaurant where the quilt was since my daughter had moved to San Francisco. After checking into the hotel I decided to scope out the hotel complex and find the restaurant. As I began to approach it I couldn't believe my eyes! There right in the entrance hung the Sansei’s Mom Quilt! Well I began to examine it and criticize my work. My quilting in the ditch wasn't always in the ditch and then of course there was the wavy bottom.

Then I brought myself up short – “wait a minute that isn't what this quilt is all about.

It was not made to hang in a museum or compete in a contest, it was made to show love. A mother's love for her son, a mother's love for her daughter, a crew’s love for their mentor.

In other words this quilt was meant to be - a true love story!