Back in those baby-laden days of the early 1980s I used to meet every Tuesday evening with two equally baby-laden friends to sit and drink tea and quilt.
This may not sound very exciting in this era of yummy mummies who may be much more likely to go to the wine bar and then clubbing, but this was the 1980s, we just didn't and in a rural Devon market town back then there were few child-friendly places to meet by day either. The idea was that we would create a sticky-finger-free oasis and the evening was sacrosanct. The preceding day was all geared around it. Chores done, nappies washed and on the line, children up on the moors for the afternoon to wear them out, tea at 4pm, baths at 5pm, bed at 6pm, no messing. Men left in charge and we would rotate around each other's sitting rooms and give vent to our creativity and attempt intelligent conversations about more than who sold Milupa baby food the cheapest. It was here that I first heard of Susan Hill's book The Magic Apple Tree for example, I should probably make a quilt about that book for that reason alone.
It is true, you do stitch what is happening in your life into a quilt and we could all remember what we had made in those years. I was working on a pastel pink and green Dresden Plate quilt (weren't we all in the 1980s) to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary, which is about right as this year we celebrate our thirty-fifth, and I had suitably named it Tin Plate. Stitched over papers I could usually manage a couple of petals while the spuds boiled and the children were watching Blue Peter. I really should be working on something 'coral' now.
After about two years of Tuesdays and several quilts later we suddenly wondered whether anyone else might be interested and perhaps we could start a group. We hired the Guide Hall for the evening, put posters up around the town and an advert in the local paper, and when the evening arrived the three of us sat in the Guide Hall and waited nervously. We didn't have to wait very long. Soon the place was heaving, one of the three of us had a six week-old baby who slept in his carry cot on the windowsill and thus became the youngest member, but on that night Tavistock's quilting group, The Goosey Quilters was born.
The three of us belonged to the group for several years, organising visiting speakers and curating exhibitions until like all things it was the right time to let go and leave it in new hands with new ideas (that sounds ominously rancorous, it wasn't) and as friends we drifted apart as the children went to different schools and we all picked up our hard-won careers again. We've done Christmas cards and stopped to chat in town but that's about it.
Last Saturday the group held its twenty-fifth birthday celebrations and the three of us were invited back as the Founding Mothers to share in the party over at Cowslip Workshops in Launceston. There was lunch followed by the traditional show-and-tell that features at any gathering of quilters, and one of our three produced the tumbling blocks baby quilt that we had made for her right under her nose on those Tuesday evenings, making some flimsy excuse that is was a for a tea cosy ( heck of a big teapot but she never suspected).
It was really lovely to catch up with old friends and you realise how easy it is to lose touch, but also, having shared those years of small babies together, how easy it is to pick up where you left off. We agreed that it was definitely time to thread a needle together again, and that the value of those friendships as you get older just can't be quantified or over-estimated, and nor should they be allowed to lapse into non-existence.
There was birthday cake with candles which the three of us were asked to cut...
and plenty of inspirational quilts to marvel over. One of the legacies of that group will be the hundreds of beautiful quilts that have been made as a result and quilts will feature large in the dovegreyreader tent at Port Eliot next weekend. I owe a great deal of that lifelong love of it all to those years and those friends.