A big highlight for 2020 was being asked on to be an OLFA Creator. As a part of this role I was able to create a project complete with a tutorial for OLFA to publish on their blog. Since I'm on a journey to make holiday themed quilts this year I decided it was the perfect time to make a St. Patrick's Day quilt! The Irish blessing quilt was born! Head on over there to see the pattern and make your very own Irish Blessing Quilt!
This whole quilt is a not so subtle nod to my Irish heritage. The long story short is my Great Grandma Mary Jane came over to Canada from Ireland when she was 18. Since then we have 4 generations born in Canada. The decendants of Mary Jane may be quite separated from our Irish family in distance and familiarity but I think we are still joined in the magical ways that blood, genetics and the whispers of history work in lives. In 2005 I was very lucky to take my own journey to Ireland to visit with my cousins and visit a little bit of Ireland that Mary Jane had left behind. After making this quilt I've really been feeling the draw to travel back to Ireland with my family find an even deeper appreciation for my Irish heritage.
Please join me as I tell you a little more about my quilt design and how I feel it relates to my family history and joins Mary Jane's descendants to her home land.
There are so many Irish blessings out there. This quilt was designed so that you can pick the one that speaks to you. A quick Google search will bring up many of them. The Irish blessing I've included on this quilt is part of a longer blessing:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
You can find many references online for what this blessing means, but since I first read it always made me think of a what a loved one would say as you set off on an adventure. I've always been up for an adventure. I love travelling, exploring new places and discovering things in far off lands. This I get from my Mary Jane. Mary Jane grew up in the small community of Drumcree in County Armagh in Northern Ireland. At 18 Mary Jane came over to Canada from Ireland, on a boat by herself to meet up with a friend who had promised Canada was full of jobs. I could only imagine how scary it was for my Great Grandma to travel so far away from her family, everything she had known to start new in Canada. I have an adventurous spirit but I'm not sure I could do that! I imagine these sentiments are what her family was wishing for her as she boarded a ship to Canada. I continue the tradition of Adventures with my children. Even the smallest outing can become a great adventure!
The background is a modernized, large scale Celtic Twist. Of course the connection here is fairly obvious, my family is from Ireland, and Ireland is a Celtic Nation but it goes a little deeper than that. When my Great Grandma Mary Jane Lappin left Ireland, her family and everything she knew behind to travel to Canada to start a new life she really didn't cut her ties, she was still linked to her family there. Mary Jane just simply added new links while maintaining her links to Ireland. As the Canadian family and Ireland family continue to grow we counting to add our links. An Ocean may separate us but our family is still linked together. Leaving the links open at the edges I want to give the idea that we still have much more room to add to our chain.
I've included 4 (tongue in cheek) Irish symbols on this quilt. They are loud, they are modelled after Lucky Charms which are magically delicious and not even close to Irish. BUT when you think of Ireland you can't help but think Leprechauns and pots of gold! On my way over to Ireland I kept having visions that everyone looked like a leprechaun and I wouldn't be able to find my family. Instead I found a few cousins who look very much like me and that time, space have seperated our family but genetics run strong!
Me (on the left) with two of my Irish Cousins!
My family comes with big hearts! Watching my siblings and cousins in Canada I know this trait runs strongly through our family. I also see this in my Irish cousins while I watch their lives from afar. This story is about the man my Great Grandma married who isn't from Ireland but I think its very indicative of who my Great Grandma valued in a husband and who she stood beside as he continued his work.
Mary Jane settled into life in Canada, getting a job in a Doctors office, fell in love and married my Great Grandpa, Clifford Harman. Clifford served as an Alderman in Oshawa Ontario for nearly 3 decades as well as worked at General Motors which until recently was the main industry in Oshawa. Clifford was passionate that there was a safe place for kids to play especially in areas where the industrial and residential areas were combined. He petitioned the city council and fought for a green space for the local children to play in. When he won his fight for a park the residents named it after him. Today there is community centre on the park land still with his name. Great Grandpa Clifford's legacy lives on in his descendants as many of us have his heart for fighting what is right.
Great Grandparents Clifford, Mary Jane and
my Grandma Doris in Ireland
When I was in Ireland I did see a bunch of rainbows. It rains there a lot. I rented a bicycle one day and cycled through sun, rain and hail! It was quite the experience. I spent a lot of time outside in Ireland exploring the country side. I was lucky enough to have a few locals take time out of their days and show me things I would never see on my own. Also, while I as there I was invited to a wedding of a cousin and the bridesmaids were in a bright rainbow of colours! I've never been to a wedding quite like an Irish wedding. They know how to party!
Another reason for the rainbow is this lovely bridge. It is just off the highway in Toronto and it remains a vivid memory from my childhood. My Grandma Doris (Mary Jane's only child) had breast cancer when I was really little. Often my Mum would take me with her and Grandma for appointments. I really don't remember any of that but I do remember that I always, ALWAYS had to see the Rainbow Bridge before I would take a nap on the way home. This bridge always reminds me of my Grandma.
3. Four Leaf Clover
Just prior to my trip to Ireland I had graduated Univeristy with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Chemistry. I had a part time job and no idea what to do next. For approximately half of the trip I explored Ireland on my own staying in hostels and relying on buses and trians to get around. I got to see a lot of Ireland. At one point I spent a few nights on Inisheer, the smallest of the Aran Islands off of the Galway coast. This island had a hostel, a few pubs a hand full of resturants and less than 100 people. I spent one evening enjoying a few beers with 100 year old man who lived on the island his entire life. He asked me if I knew how to milk a goat (which I do) and then quickly told me to keep that to myself because they probably would try to convince me to stay forever and help grow the Island population. lol. On this island, there really wasn't much to do and I spent a lot of time sitting and starring off into the ocean thinking of my future. It was here that I made the decision to go back to school to study Eco system management. The beauty of Ireland made me want to do my part to protect the environment.
View while sitting on Inisheer contenplating my future
Ahhhh, the luck of the Irish! Some say it isn't a thing, I say it is. Maybe it is more of an attitude. I take most bad fortune in stride and it tends to work out in the end much for the better. My trip to Ireland was incredibly lucky. Between my amazing family who's hospitalty was unmatched and finding strangers who went above and beyond to help me out. My family took me all over their little part of Ireland making sure I saw everything I wanted and made sure when I ventured off on my own that I would be safe! Also, everyone I met on my travels was so lovely. I had one business owner shut down his shop for the day to tour me all through County Wicklow even taking me to a real castle in the mountains to listen to live music! I couldn't make this quilt without the horseshoe to remind me just how amazing my trip to Ireland was and how I was so lucky to have an Irish family who made my trip one I would remember for ever!
Me at the "Meeting of the Waters" in County Wicklow.
A local business owner brought me here on a tour of the county.