Passing on a Passion

Quilts evoke emotions of love and family, of warmth and security. And for longtime quilter Vivian Gregory, it’s a passion that began with lessons from her mother.

Vivian was her mother’s best pupil. In fact, Vivian was her mother’s only pupil after she gave up teaching high school home economics to raise her two children. Vivian was 4 years old but can still recall her mother teaching her to sew. Vivian would spend hours listening to the sewing machine’s soothing hums and rhythms, and she and her mother would sew one project after another.

“Mother would give me all the fabric scraps, and I would arrange them into blocks. She would pick me up and put me on a box so I could make the machine go,” Vivian vividly recalls. That was 69 years ago. Throughout the years, Vivian continued refining her craft but put it aside for a while because life got busy. But in 1979, an adult education class on quilting intrigued her, and as she says, “the bug bit.”

“I was fascinated with fabric. I loved seeing it bloom to life,” Vivian explains. She began to intensely study different aspects of quilting, from the patterns to the colors to the appliqués. She has a myriad of quilting manuals that grace her bookshelves, and she turns to them when she is “challenged.” Vivian has always loved a challenge, which she says is one of the reasons she loves quilting so much.

She has made more than 500 quilts over the years, giving more than a hundred of them away. Even though she is very educated in her artistry, she is still eager to learn.

“I love to learn something new. I even go out and take classes, though I probably don’t need to really,” she admits. “Everyone needs a passion, a reason to get up and keep going. I just love the process, the feel and task of it. And I hope quilting is something my children and grandchildren want to carry on.”

To ensure the passing on of this tradition, Vivian has taught her daughters and granddaughters how to quilt. It has even become a way for the women to bond with one another. “They just love coming to grandmother’s house for our mini retreats,” she says.

At these quilting bees, the daughters and granddaughters can be found working in their grandmother’s expansive sewing room, talking, laughing, and enjoying time together while sharing an enthusiasm for a beloved art. This time is precious to Vivian. To her, quilting is “a little memory you can leave behind.” She has left behind hundreds and is still making more with each stitch.