The story♡ Where do I begin?? The story of my quilt, A Stroll Through Pete's Garden, (yes, I have named her) I suppose, began many, many years ago. Why, it is a story which began before I was a twinkle in my father's eye. It is a story where the seeds of single letters germinated into words, the words then flourishing into sentences, burgeoning into paragraph after paragraph, sometimes ambling, other times skittering across the page; one after the other. Chapter after chapter of the re-telling of everyday life, travelling through the years; when all of a sudden, a story has been written. A story where the first chapters were authored in the mysterious and pulsating places of India; and as the years slipped by, travelled with the protagonist through the space of time to Australia.
The inspiration for my happy flower garden quilt begins with a little boy whose life began in the melting pot of Calcutta, India. The little boy, Pete, (my husband) at six months of age was taken to an orphanage/boarding school, Dr Graham's Homes, a school founded by a Scottish missionary in the earlier part of the 20th century, providing a home and school for Anglo Indian children. Dr Graham wanted these children to find acceptance and worth within a school setting because the caste system, Jati, considered Anglo Indian children to be definitely on the bottom rung of the Jati ladder. This school which has been buzzing with the sounds of children for over a century, is located in a town called Kalimpong in the district of Darjeeling, nestled in the foothills of West Bengal, where the snow covered Himalayas rise majestically to soaring heights, kissing the sky, keeping a lazy eye on all the daily goings-on of school life. Pete's mother was a nurse and because she had to travel far and wide every day, there was no-one to care for him. All his older brothers and one sister boarded at the school too, though he didn't really see them much, as they were busy with their own friends and they boarded in different cottages. Pete's mother didn't much care nor love Pete, a fact which to this day nobody knows the reason. Through all the years, Pete's mother made it perfectly clear that she didn't like nor indeed care for him.
Although Pete found a home with all the other children and teachers, and even though life at school was more agreeable than day after day in the streets of Calcutta, he was a bit of a scallywag. In his little child's mind, in his heart, there was this nagging feeling he was never quite good enough. Pete was always in the middle of some fracas. More often than not, Pete found himself in the principal's office bearing the brunt of some nasty discipline, because of his shenanigans and hijinks. Let's just say that the Malacca wood cane figured greatly in Pete's school days. Oh my goodness, the stories Pete tells of discipline in India, in the fifties! But then, I suppose discipline in the 1950's was draconian and rather over the top, the world over. One story comes to mind of a male teacher sticking drawing pins into his head because of some misdemeanor in class. I know!!!!
One day, for punishment, after many a failed attempt to corral Pete's disobedient and 'adventurous' spirit, the exasperated principal at the end of his tether, took 14 year old Pete out to the garden and ordered him to pull out every single weed and not to go back to class until he had done so. A horrible task for most but to Pete, within the confines of the garden; with the kitten faces of the pansies smiling at him, the delicious scents of the roses sprinkling upon him.....and all the other flowers sashaying with the joy of life before him, he found his tribe. He discovered a sense of the magic of the flower kingdom. Digging his hands into the earth, pulling out the cantankerous and ornery weeds, he found joy. He found delight in the beauty and stillness; the peace of the garden. He found patience in waiting for the slowness of nature, perseverance with the challenges which a garden presents day in, day out. Something deep within him began to stir. Pete loved 'his' garden. Within the environs of the flowery little plot of earth he found a quietness that nature always gives. Like all who have ever tended a garden, Pete discovered life skills that would hold him in good stead in his later years. For gardens are the very best teachers of all. Indeed, gardening is a life-long education; for those who tend a garden are always learning. Pete loved to spend time within the boundaries of the garden. Needless to say Pete was even naughtier in class, because he knew as punishment he would be sent to the garden. He was a clever boy, was my Pete.
Let's just say that over time, the garden was a sight to behold; not a single weed in sight, with happy plants thriving. Why, because of his care and love for his garden; Pete's garden more often than not won the annual 'garden of the year' prize among all the cottages. Each cottage had a garden. Pete tended the garden and the garden tended his soul. As a little boy Pete was filled with dreams of creating gardens when he was older and indeed, throughout his life, gardens, both for pleasure and employment have been his mainstay, his joy.
Throughout his school days in India, Pete was sponsored, through World Vision, by a little church youth fellowship in Canada. It touches my heart to think that for years a group of young people prayed for a little boy thousands of miles away in India, contributed money for his schooling; and sent wonderful packages and letters to him throughout the year. For a lonely little boy the arrival of much anticipated packages through the year, bursting with fabulous surprises from far, far away, filled with such love and prayer was to Pete, the things of such joyousness. Why it brings tears to my eyes just to think about it. To think those prayers covered Pete like a warm cloak all his life, strengthening him, bolstering him, building him up, urging him on to face life's challenges; indeed, hugging him. Aahh....the wonderful provision of our Heavenly Father. God, truly had Pete in the palm of His hand, unbeknownst to Pete, of course. Why, God has had Pete in the palm of His hand all his life.
Fast forward about fifty five years Pete (who had waved goodbye to India and emigrated to Australia at eighteen years of age), with his wife (that would be me) and daughter, moved all their worldly goods and chattels to live in Tasmania, a little island at the bottom of mainland Australia. Tasmania........the land of the proverbial 'milk and honey'......well.....at least rich, red fertile soil and bucket loads of rainwater. Though Pete created a garden wherever he lived, he thought this was the place where perhaps he could create that one beautiful garden, the stuff of an Indian boy's dreams all those years ago.
So, the dream of that one beautiful garden began to be. Did I say "Tasmania.......the land of milk and honey"?? Well.....that wasn't quite true of the plot of land where we found ourselves. Why, I remember uttering to Pete on the morning of our arrival at this rather humble place we now call home "are you sure this is the house we bought"!! But......that is many, many more chapters to another story!
Alas, before Pete's dream of a beautiful garden could be more than a pipe dream; a figment of his rather fertile, horticultural imagination, he had to first extricate trailer load after trailer load of tetanus causing, rusty car parts, debris, junk, concrete slab after concrete slab, and whatever else the previous owner had decided to bury in the backyard. I must say those first few years of the rather underwhelming plot of land resembled an archaeological dig. Unfortunately for us, no treasure was to be unearthed! Blind Freddy could see that the previous owner adored and worshipped all things concrete and junk. It seemed this bloke just 'lurved' to plant concrete! The tragic thing is that the previous owner lived here for forty years!! In my mind's eye I can see the beautiful trees that could have been planted. I can imagine all the green as green, gorgeous flowering trees that could have been planted; beauteous buddleias, magnolias, rhododendrons, weeping cherries, tree gardenias........oh, and an ever bountiful orchard with fruit trees that just keep on gifting. Why, my head gets dizzy just thinking of all the aged trees that could have welcomed us on our arrival.
Not to be deterred and with the heart of a lion my husband slowly began to create his garden. It took a couple of years to manually dig up all the junk and take it to the tip, the place of refuse. Day after day, month after month, year after year Pete lovingly worked with the plot of land before him. Many a chapter has been written by me about the beautiful garden Pete has imagined and then created. Many a chapter has been written about 'the pond' an oasis where dragon flies zip here and there, gold fish dart in and out of the water lilies, and from time to time there seems to be a little romance among the lily pads where frogs serenade their croaky love songs to one another. Much has been written and many a happy snap captured of the garden; where trees grow happily, reaching to the sky and below the canopy of the trees, shrubs and flowers thrive and bloom joyously throughout the year. Irises, poppies, lilies, foxgloves, daisies, gladioli, cosmos, agapanthus, ajugas, lilacs, dahlias, daffodils, jonquils, lupins, love-in-the-mist, forget-me-nots, bluebells, ixias, azaleas, rhododendrons.......just to name a few, all take to the flower stage and bloom at their allotted time. Every season there is something new, something different that wasn't seen the previous year, as gardens are never static, they are always changing. Pete is always adding to the garden; always changing, always improving; always trying out new ideas. It is a garden where the wind blows seeds wherever it will and flowers pop up in the most unexpected places. And.....I might add that nature always gets the placement of these rogue seeds just right! We both love wild and disobedient gardens that hug you, grab you as you pass by. Pete's garden is a garden where an intoxicating potpourri of gorgeous colours and heady fragrances, together with the glorious sounds of nature....sweet birdsong, quicken the senses.
Why, Pete's garden is a garden which through the years has healed us both physically, mentally and spiritually. It is a safe cocoon from the troubles of the world. Why, one can almost forget about the travails that happen outside the parameters of our little garden. It is a secret garden where one can hide among the trees and flowers and never be found. This magical place is where we have bent our heads when there were no words in our hearts and have heard the loving whispers of God. Oh, I could go on and on and on about Pete's garden and the joy and peace; the calm this little patch of paradise gives to our days, but enough said. Let's just stroll through a few photos of the miracle that is Pete's garden; shall we??
A Stroll Through Pete's Garden, quilt had swirled around in my imagination for a very long time. I had dreamt about it for so long that I could see it in my mind's eye. I had been day dreaming of fashioning a quilt with blossoms flourishing all over, inspired by the garden which embraced me, in which I strolled and delighted in, every day. But, though I could see the quilt in my imagination nothing was certain. I just wanted to play with design, pattern, fabrics, colour, movement and texture, and see where all my playing would lead me. I wanted the quilt to be a wild garden, much like Pete's sometimes wild and disobedient garden, where flowers of the seasons danced together in one quilt.
I had never really totally hand appliqued a quilt before. Oh, I had fiddle-faddled with applique in the past but now I wanted to grow up and join the big girls; those clever girls who hand appliqued the most amazing quilts. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and design, hand applique and hand quilt a flower garden quilt of my very own. Somebody else's pattern didn't interest me. I didn't want to copy anyone else's work, I just wanted to go with the flow and see where my playing took me. And, I must say that at the beginning the thought "what am I doing??" did cross my mind.....but only fleetingly. =)
A Stroll Through Pete's Garden, quilt is a happenstance quilt. I say this because at every juncture I just happened upon the very fabric I was looking for. I wanted to evoke an impressionist feeling to this quilt as Pete's garden brings to mind an impressionist garden. I adore the artists of the Impressionist era; my favourite artist being Monet. It was a happy day indeed when I happened upon the soft green fabric with just the hint of smudges of tiny watercolour flowers for the grass, and the sky of soft painterly, batik dancing in pastel shades, reminiscent of those soft, whispering, early morning misty skies that greet me as the sun rises each day. The backing fabric was a serendipitous find. The daffodils and all the other spring flowers dancing all over is perfect. The border fabric, too, of blue and lilac hydrangeas dancing around the flower garden is pure serendipity.
Morning after morning awoke; and I designed and played with freezer paper, glue; fabric flowers, butterflies, bees, birds; all magically finding their way onto my quilt. Time marched on. The procession of the seconds, the minutes, the hours; slipped into days, weeks, months, seasons....and yes, years. I stitched on. Contented. Always thinking. Always designing. Sometimes wondering if the last tiny hand stitch would ever be stitched. As I looked outside my window the changing garden inspired me. Why, the flowers flourishing on the quilt are those which bloom in the garden, during the seasons of spring and summer. A magical packet of flower seeds sprinkled onto the quilt and before my very eyes the garden grew. The fabric flowers began to bloom. Cosmos, daffodils, anemones, granny bonnets, pansies, daisies, tulips, foxgloves, hydrangeas, water lilies, and my arch nemesis, the wisteria! Gosh, the wisteria was a pain in the royal proverbial, but it was essential that the wisteria panicle flowers cascaded from the top of the quilt. I suppose the crowning glory, if you like. It didn't matter one iota that each wisteria flower took an age to fashion. Pete's garden evokes an impressionist feel, as does A Stroll in Pete's Garden. Care to take a stroll around and see A Stroll Through Pete's Garden quilt sashaying happily amongst the flowers which were the inspiration??
A Stroll Through Pete's Garden is finished♡ I sit here amazed at the finished quilt before me. I sit here amazed at the flowers, the bees, the birds, the butterflies; all singing the happiest of songs, dancing in a most beautiful, rhythmic fashion. A quilt, inspired by a beautiful garden that a man dreamed and then constructed, with faint whispers echoing of a long ago garden in another country. A time where he found peace and contentment within the confines of a garden. I often wonder about that youth fellowship in Canada who for all those years prayed for a lonely little boy in India and gifted him with their kindness. Their faithful prayers have been answered. God has always held Pete firmly in the palm of His hand. Funnily enough the mischievous scallywag of a boy grew into a wonderful man, husband and father who throughout his life has served others and his God. He has that rare, God-given gift of really listening to people, to put others before himself. My Pete is a humble man. I suppose it is because he was once a troubled youth all those years ago in India. I don't know why I am amazed that this should be so, as I know God works His miracles in the everyday happenings. All his adult life Pete has mentored and worked with young people with an uncanny ability to relate to troubled youth. It is as if he has channelled all those memories of the hard times in the days of his youth in India, and turned them into something positive and good. When we moved here, Pete found employment as a chaplain at our local district high school where day in, day out he chats to young people, encouraging them to be their better selves, helping them work through life's hard times. Sadly, at the end of this year he has decided to retire, which saddens him.....but that just means more time spent in his beloved garden. =)
Phew.....that was bigger than Ben Hur!!!! =) If you are still here and managed to read to the end.....THANK YOU♡ The story behind my little quilt is a long story....which I have wanted to tell for some time now. A Stroll Through Pete's Garden is my very favourite quilt of all time and will be forevermore. I don't think any other quilt I fashion will touch my heartstrings quite like this one, as the back story with which this quilt came into being is so very special to me♡ It is a story that will ever be held tightly within the deepest part of my being. But for now, this pretty quilt is done; the story behind the quilt has been told and the photoshoot is over......thank goodness for that, I hear you say. =)
Bye for now...........until the next time, much love to you♡