Sunday, 22 September 2013

William, Bill, Billy

First, some family history. My paternal grandfather's name was William. He was a veteran of World War I and died when my father - his oldest child - was only 9 years old. I don't know if he was called Bill, like my father, my brother and my nephew (all Williams) or what he did for a living after the war.
My father was a veteran of World War II, having served in the Air Force as a stretcher bearer in Britain. After the war, he pursued various and sundry lines of occupation, eventually landing a job at the local psychiatric hospital. Through adult education, he was able to become an RNA (the Ontario equivalent of an LPN) and continued his employment at the psychiatric hospital, working with the mentally retarded. Yes, I know that is not the politically correct label, but, believe it or not, it is the correct professional diagnosis according to the ICD-9-CM (International Classification of Diseases). My father died in 2000 at the age of 80. 
My brother Bill did a short stint in the Royal Canadian Air Force, fortunately during a time of peace. He, too, pursued various and sundry lines of occupation. He was not quite 31 when he decided to go back to school and graduated as a Registered Nurse. While Bill enjoyed most fields of nursing practice, his favourite was mental health and he spent most of his nursing career in this field. He served for nearly 2 years as a regional mental health director in the North West Territories. His final nursing position was in crisis intervention. Bill passed away in February, 2009 at the age of 57.
While Bill was in nursing school, his son Billy was born. Billy is now 29 years old and yes, as an adult, he now goes by Bill. But old habits die hard and to me, he will probably always be Billy. I now understand why my aunts and uncles and some of my older cousins persisted in calling me Laurie, which is what I was called when I was little. Like his father and grandfather, Billy tried his hand at different jobs, but this year, he too decided to go back to school. He is pursuing social work. While not in the nursing profession, it is still a helping/caregiving profession and he intends to eventually do similar work to his father. Billy is the father to a beautiful little girl, so no other William has been added to that branch of the family line at this point in time. However, two other nephews have sons named William. One is William James, called William, and the other is William Jack, called Jack. With William's father a pastor and Jack's father a teacher, chances are these two Williams will continue the helping/caregiving tradition in the family line. 
Much of that lengthy preamble is by way of background and introduction to the quilt block I did in memory of my brother. When I was considering what block to use, I couldn't find one that satisfied me. I googled and looked in my quilting books and couldn't find a block I liked with William in the name. At least not one that I wanted to use. I found Sweet William and Dear William and even William Morris, but they are too flowery and ornate. Definitely not my brother. And I couldn't find anything else that I considered relevant to my brother. I finally decided to do a block with several appliqued items that, to me, represent Bill. Though there are numerous items I could have chosen, I finally narrowed it down to 6. My other siblings or Bill's children may have chosen differently, but this is what I came up with.

Now the explanation:
1. Inuksuk - to commemorate Bill's time in the North West Territories and his enduring love for the north. Though he never returned, there were times when he considered it. I wasn't sure what fabric to use, but once I found this Stonehenge fabric, which looks like rock, I knew this was it.
2. Husky - While Bill lived in Tuktoyaktuk, he found and adopted a husky-cross dog that he named Tuk after the town he was living in. Tuk became an important and much-loved member of Bill's family.
3. Harley-Davidson Motorcycles - During his teenage years, Bill developed his lifelong love for motorcycles, especially the Harley.
4. Red Cross - This represents my brother's nursing career. He had pursued other jobs, but I believe he really found his calling when he entered nursing. I looked for nursing fabric, but couldn't find anything I really liked for this block, so opted for a basic red cross instead.
5. Fireman - During the last few years of my brother's life, Bill was a volunteer fireman. It was a second career that he loved. Several of his colleagues from the force came in their uniforms to his funeral service. I will forever be grateful for the honour and respect they paid to my brother. His son followed in his footsteps and became a volunteer firefighter as well.
6. Blue Maple Leaf - As long as I can remember, Bill was a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. On Saturday nights, our brother "owned" the television as he watched Hockey Night in Canada, which to me, as a young girl, was incredibly boring. It wasn't till years later, as he taught me everything I know about the game, that I learned to appreciate and even enjoy Hockey Night in Canada. I looked for Toronto Maple Leaf fabric, but wasn't able to find any. So I looked for fabric in Toronto Maple Leaf blue. Another woman in the quilt shop helped me locate what we felt was the right colour. Then I downloaded a logo to get the right shape and printed it out in the appropriate size to use as a pattern. 
As I was contemplating the creation of this block, I began to think that I would make a duplicate for Billy. But what would I do with it? Should I make a pillow? No, maybe a wallhanging? Then Billy contacted me about his plans for going to college. He knows I'm proud of him. He knows he has my support. But I wanted to give him something more tangible, something to give him comfort when he wished for his father's guidance and advice while pursuing his education. So I decided to make him a quilt. But what quilt? And how would I incorporate his father's block. Without telling him why, I asked for his favourite colour. Blue. And I was able to get this 6-half metre bundle at my LQS for half price:
This bundle will form the core fabric for the quilt, together with some others from my stash:
Then I had to decide on a pattern. I went to allpeoplequilt.com and searched for blue and white quilts and found this Blue and White Pinwheels. I will be making it larger than the pattern, with 36 blocks in the centre, rather than 25. It's still a work in progress, but here are the first few blocks:
The finished block size is 6 inches. And since I've just finished a quillow for my grandson, I decided to make this into one as well, using my brother's block as the pillow front.