Saturday, April 17, 2021

Twelve months ago today, I lost one of my dearest friends; Di Ford Hall.

This all sounds a bit clich├ęd, but one of life's amazing women left us all, far too early.
Di was loved by all who knew her, particularly her gorgeous and devoted husband Brian, her children Jason and Nicci, her grandchildren, her brother Neville, her sister Wendy and their families.

I miss Di every day, as there are reminders all around my house, namely quilts, that spark memories of conversations, sewing days and time at Primarily Patchwork in Canterbury.

I knew Di for over 30 years; firstly when I was a student at Primarily Patchwork where I wanted to refine my stitches, and then, over time, we became friends. I occasionally helped out in the shop, helped with the class and requirements list, and eventually joined the inner sanctum as a friend welcome in her home. Any time spent with Di was always happy.

Di always welcomed friends into her home, but not very often did she celebrate her own milestones. However, in 2011, Di and Brian invited us to their home to celebrate Di's 60th birthday, well sort of. We should have guessed that something was afoot (Barbara did) as Di always played down her birthdays. In fact Di and Brian were to be married, and we were all surprised and honoured to be a part of their very special day. How gloriously happy everyone was that day!!  I don't think they were ever apart after that!

Brian spent every day of Di's hospital visits, either as a day patient or an inpatient, by her side. That's no mean feat when you live about 70km from the hospitals, and we never heard a grumble from him. My sewing friends and I tried to visit as often as we could, but with the tyranny of Covid, that was a hard road to navigate. We discovered that Di hated the evenings in the hospital, as Brian had gone home by then to tend to his chores and feed the animals, so Merri and Deb came up with a plan that one at a time we would keep Di company every evening until she fell asleep. They were special time; sometimes we would chatter about god knows what, other times we'd watch TV together, and sometimes we'd just sit. It was an honour to be able to help our dear friend in whatever ways we could.

At the time of Di's death there were a couple of her quilts that lay unfinished, so with Brian's blessing, my gorgeous sewing friends and I completed them for her: "Chesapeake" and "Windermere". What an honour!! Luckily for us we had been with Di as she designed and talked about these quilts; there were no patterns to guide us, just a few squiggly drawings, but we'd listened long and hard and felt we knew exactly what Di would wish for. "Chesapeake" was "almost" done; just needed a dozen or so blocks and a border print to finish it off.

"Windermere" was a bit more of a challenge, as Di had completed the centre panel and only sixteen of the surrounding forty blocks. To be fair, Ann and Merri had already completed their versions of "Windermere" and many of us had started making endless hexagon flowers so we knew what was involved, but of course we all wanted to make sure our stitches were up to Di's impeccable standards; near enough just wouldn't do. As quilt makers we all know, of course, that there is more than just blocks; there are sashings, corner stones, borders, backing and bindings. So many decisions still lay ahead of us, so we asked the person who knew Di and her quilts best, Brian. He really had paid attention on all those shopping expeditions, conventions and shows, and he knew exactly what was required! With our new found advice, "Windermere" was up and running again and finally ready to be quilted. 
The very talented Helen Hayes has been quilting Di's quilts for many years, so of course it was to her that both "Chesapeake" and "Windermere" were sent for magic to be done. Di always put a lot of energy and thought into the design of her quilts, and Helen knows exactly how to apply the final polish. Di and Brian were a match made in heaven, and I think the match of Di and Helen is just as heavenly.
It has been an absolute honour, delight and pleasure to be able to complete these two magnificent quilts with my friends for our mentor and great friend Di, her beloved husband Brian and her family.

Today I am going to have lunch, and sew a stitch or two, with my sewing friends, and celebrate that we able to share in the life of a generous and courageous woman.
I don't want to be sad, although I'll probably shed a few tears; I want to be thankful that I am one of the lucky people who shared such a fulfilling, (and sometimes expensive passion) with Di, and that through her I have some much cherished friendships (you know who you are!!)