In the Suburbs: Our oldest grandson tests the quilting waters

Steven Gaynes has presented quilts he and his wife made to his grandchildren.

Steven Gaynes has presented quilts he and his wife made to his grandchildren.

Steven Gaynes / Contributed photo

Our oldest  miracle grandson Lucas, now 11, recently told his LoLo (maternal grandmother in Cantonese) that he wanted to learn how to quilt. Of course, Grandma LoLo wanted to be sure Lucas was serious, so she invited him to our house last Saturday to “test the fabrics.”

Lucas became part of our family more than five years ago when our daughter Stacey adopted him from China. What is so wonderful about our special guy, aside from his beautiful personality and boundless energy, is his endless curiosity, about all things mechanical. He absolutely loves taking things apart and putting them back together along with creating pictures or building things out of any materials he finds.

And his new life away from the orphanage, where he spent his first six years, is evolving as he opens doors to all sorts of experiences. This newfound interest in quilting is only one of those doors.  

My wife could barely contain her excitement when Lucas arrived for his first lesson in our dining room, which we had transformed into a makeshift sewing area. She really had no idea what Lucas would ask about or want to know, but she didn’t have to wait long. Our little grandson was filled with excitement and many questions.  

Lucas certainly didn’t jump right in and want to start sewing. Instead, he kept LoLo on her toes by asking questions about her sewing machine and how it worked. I had to work that afternoon at the bookstore, but my wife sent tons of texts about Lucas’ questions. To be perfectly literal, Lucas really pushed LoLo’s buttons about how the machine works and what really impressed Lolo was how much he remembered. His mind is like a mousetrap, she told me. “He doesn’t miss a thing.”  

From my wife’s perspective, Lucas’ innate mechanical ability and how rapidly he learned to sew a quarter-inch seam made her afternoon “sew” rewarding. Also, Lucas is a great listener and he quickly grasped everything she was talking about.  

My wife said his sewing was so good, it puts me to shame after nearly 15 years of quilting. I’m seriously thinking about having Lucas piece together some of my future smaller quilts. Of course, that depends on whether he really wants to quilt. But those projects will be down the road, of course.

For last week, my wife was able to find a small notebook of very simple patterns that we received years ago during a one-week basic sewing getaway that she used for her brief tutorial. The designs are really nice and very easy to put together. Lucas selected a very basic four-patch pattern, which involves cutting strips of fabric lengthwise and then cutting them into smaller square pieces and sewing them together to create a patch of different colors. He chose two bright colors – a yellow and a gray – and when he returns for his next lesson, he will actually be able to create his first mini quilt.  

According to our daughter, Lucas remembered a lot from his first sewing lesson.

As he told her, “The machine and foot pedal were fun and putting my hand on the foot pedal, which had to be on the table,was even more fun. I couldn’t touch the floor. I really liked the button that lifts the needle on the sewing machine and the piece that cuts the thread. I want to make a small blanket for my brother Caleb or Cookie our dog.”

My wife really focused on quilting safety, particularly when using the rotary cutter to cut out fabric. She explained that Lucas got a little carried away with the foot pedal, which had to be on the table instead of the floor.  At first, he was sewing a little too fast. But once she showed him the importance of slowing down to be more precise, he quickly caught on and his sewing was straight and within the standard quarter-inch border on the machine. 

In short, there is not a lot of room for “hot-rod” sewers in the quilting world unless one learns the machine inside and out.  

Before beginning to sew, Lucas watched intently as his Lolo followed the numbers and threaded the needle, as well as loading the bobbin which provides necessary thread. She was convinced that he grasped the threading completely and will probably be able to do it pretty much by himself the next time.      

By the time Lucas left the quilting workshop, he had already sewed a few seams and had chosen materials for his first project. He couldn’t have been more excited about all that he learned, according to my wife. And he definitely wants to come back and begin his little quilt.

Even I got involved. For our regular Monday evening quilting guild, my wife assigned me the task of cutting two-and-a-half inch strips for Lucas’ project. LoLo has little strength or patience these days for cutting, the tedious part of quilting.

Because quilting is such a wonderful legacy and we have accumulated enough fabric to open a store, we are thrilled that Lucas has taken such an early interest in wanting to quilt.  He has definitely learned very quickly that a quick way to LoLo’s heart is through her quilts.    

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at