Stitching Together Three Generations

June, 2004
The family that sews together... (from left) Tina Piper, Susan Butler, Lucy Comeau and Edna Coffin. Photo by Thomas Ames Jr.

The family that sews together... (from left) Tina Piper, Susan Butler, Lucy Comeau and Edna Coffin. Photo by Thomas Ames Jr.

It took five years of searching just to find the right quilt blocks, but Edna Coffin was a woman with a mission.

Her dream was to work with her mother, Lucy Comeau, on an embroidered quilt that would become a lasting family treasure.

Coffin, senior business services assistant in Plymouth State’s accounts payable office since 1980, mentioned the project to her daughter, Tina Piper, and her sister, Susan Butler, who were both eager to be a part of it. Piper, also a part of the Plymouth State family, has been an administrative assistant for the University police department for 11 years.

“The first problem was that the three of us had never done any kind of embroidery or needlework before,” says Coffin. “My mother had been embroidering all her life and was an expert, so she had to teach us all before we could get started.”

Even with the expert instruction, there were a few problems to overcome. Says Coffin, “I was terrible at the stems and leaves, and Tina and I had a problem with our French knots looking like baseballs. We decided my mother and Tina would do all the stems and leaves, and Susan and my mother would do the French knots.” So each square of the quilt became as much a joint effort as the finished quilt itself.

The project was headquartered at Comeau’s house, where they returned completed blocks and picked up new ones. It took 42 blocks for the queen-size quilt, and a year to complete the needlework with the four women working on it at home in their spare time, and at Comeau’s on Saturdays.

“I didn’t care what colors anyone used,” Coffin explains. “I wanted it to be ‘a quilt of many colors.’ For sentimental reasons it was important to me that the majority of it be my mother’s work, so the three of us adopted a much slower pace. It wasn’t long before Mom wanted to know why the three of us weren’t keeping up with her.”

Coffin, the only one of the four who had previously done any quilting, laid out the completed blocks to strategically distribute colors before stitching them together and applying the backing. It was finally completed this past January. “I wanted my mother to have the finished quilt,” Coffin says. “She insisted that I have it. Someday I’ll pass it on to Tina.”

“It was a lot of work,” Coffin continues. “There were a few stuck fingers here and there, but we laughed over them. The time we spent together we’ll cherish forever.”

—KH


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