Quilter’s Name: Melva Nolan from Trinidad, Colorado
Type of Quilt: Legacy Quilt
Name of Pattern: Original Designs
Featured Date: 10-11-23
Hi, I’m Melva Nolan from Melva Loves Scraps and live in Trinidad, CO – the far Southeastern portion of the state, between the plains and the mountains. My favorite quilts to make are quilts that tell stories ~ Stories of a family member, time of
history or adventures. At the beginning of the 2020 shut-down, a friend from high school contacted me about making a quilt. His intention was to support a self-employed individual or small business owner in a time of uncertainty for so many since his job was stable and income was consistent. Since my husband and I both work from home with our small business, my thoughtful friend reached out to me. Below is the story from my blog…
When I received a message from a friend about making a quilt to honor/reflect the life of his Dad I was touched and felt privileged that he had faith in me to design and create such a work of art. As we discussed design options we went back and forth. I would toss out ideas and options and he would counter with modifications or suggestions. Our design conversations began in March… When we finally reached common ground in May I think we both shouted . LOL.
Chris composed a beautiful letter to his Godson/Nephew, Luke and his girlfriend, Syriena. Here is the letter:
The journey of this quilt started roughly March 13th, 2020 at the beginning of the COVID 19 lock-down. There were reports that many people would lose their jobs and there would be many people in need. I knew I was in a job that was safe for the time being, so I began to think of how I could help other people. Melva Nolan is a quilter who is from La Junta and now lives outside of Trinidad. CO where her husband worked as a professor at Trinidad State Jr. College. She had made a quilt for me to give as a wedding present to Dr. Katheryn B. many years ago. When I was helping Katheryn move into her new house in Denver, I noticed she still had it and it might have graced her master bedroom set.
So at the beginning, I saw this as a project to help to an extremely talented, generous, kind and caring local artist who has deep connections with La Junta and Trinidad. This was perfect, because it reminded me of your late Nana and your late Grandfather Galen R. Baker and how they lived their lives and what was important to them. You can see that Melva created a priceless work of art that reflects the beauty of our family and the essence of the beauty of Colorado. At first, I wanted this to be a tribute to your grandfather, Galen R. Baker, his life, his journey and his gifts to our family, which to me, have never really been talked about, appreciated, explored or remembered. Then I reflected upon the seriousness of your relationship with Syriena. You more than hinted of your intent to marry her. Both of you were with Nana when she left us on earth. Such was great testament to your loyalty, your spiritual maturity and your responsibilities to face difficult and sad events in your life. This is so important to the maturation on becoming a man. So I started to think of this quilt as a wedding present for you and Syriena. As such, it would be a reminder to both of you of the significant linage you share with your Mother (Jane), Nana, your uncles, as well as the physical location of the Colorado Plains and the Colorado Mountains. This quilt took the better part of four months to be designed and stitched together by hand. As Melva collaborated with me on its design, my deepest intent was to give you something to remind you of your family ties. There is a dance the Koshares do to remind the young warrior that no matter where he goes, there will always be the family ties that call him home and to remind him of how important his actions are to the family as a whole. It is called the “Belt Dance”. It was likely taught by Plains Indians (Comanche, I think) to a Pueblo Indian group who in turn, taught it to the Koshares. The dancers weave in and out with each other, braiding their belts with each other and then unbraiding them. In the end, dancing as paired with the same person each dancer started with. And so the family belt reminds the warrior of the family tradition and of family commitment; so too, I hope this quilt reminds you and Syriena of the same.
So, this is your quilt Luke and Syriena. It was made by hand and there is no other on earth quite like it.
Just as it was almost completed, I was talking to Uncle Mike about it. Uncle Mike asked me if it had any turquoise in it to remind you of Nana’s favorite color. I in turn asked Melva and she had anticipated this and had several places where turquoise was in it. She showed me pictures of the Ponderosa Pine branch and Pine cone, also another part of the quilt. But, she said, she could frame this all with turquoise. Considering the significant impact Mom had in our lives, I thought this most appropriate. Notice outside of the turquoise from is a deep dark brown. Brown was your Great Grandfather’s (Ruben V. Inge (Papa)) favorite color. Inside of the turquoise border are alternating green triangles. These are called ‘Flying Geese’ by quilters and they also remind us of a time when Papa hunted geese in the fall. Inside of the log cabins is a red box inside a square. That is called a “Log Cabin” by quilters. This is to remind us of home and family.
There is a scene of a bear below a silhouette of Fishers Peak that is made on hand dyed cloth. Fishers Peak is a prominent landmark associated with Trinidad, Colorado. This is where your Grandfather taught archaeology, sociology and anthropology before moving his family to La Junta and teaching the same at Otero Jr. College. Trinidad is also where your Uncle Mike was born. Who could also forget the bears that sometime frequented our backyard and the one that stole a watermelon from our porch while Aunt Sally was sitting inside the sliding glass door, just feet away from the event? Bear claws are in the square just to the left and above this picture.
The bison scene is made upon the fabric that Melva hand dyed from flowers and other items from nature. You can see one of the imprints of one of the flowers in the upper right hand part of this picture. To the left is the symbol that is found on the New Mexico Flag. It was presented by a Native American from Zia Pueblo who was also the artist that painted the beautiful murals inside the Round Room of the Kiva in La Junta. Of course, the buffalo symbolizes the Plains of Colorado, the Plains Indians of Colorado, and Colorado University where your Grandfather got his Master’s Degree, Nana got her RN and I (by extension from UCCS) got my Master’s Degree. But most importantly, it also symbolizes the die-hard CU football fans that your Uncle Mike, John and Stephen are. The whole of this complicated and intricate design represents your Uncle Richard’s mind. Detailed, meaningful and (like your Uncle Dave), deeply symbolic. I hope you enjoy this piece of artwork, that has in it the spirit of our family journey. May it help you remember your past, your ancestors and where you come from. Most importantly, I hope it symbolizes the strength of character you have developed and will need to be a good father, husband and family leader.
When I met Chris to deliver the quilt he asked me to explain the block choices and the meanings behind them… He did a great job remembering the details… so much so, I didn’t even feel the need to expand or correct for this post. This quilt was a privilege to create… a one-of-a-kind piece of art and I admitted to Chris that I was a little sad to see it leave. But reading his letter to his Nephew and Niece-to- be I feel happy that I was able to create such a special gift and know that it is deeply appreciated.
At the same time that I was planning and designing Chris’s quilt, I announced my first of three block-of-the-month sew along events. My first was the Pieces From the Past. In this sew along event I paired a vintage Kansas City Star pattern with a letter from former German Prisoners of War. The patterns that were a part of a collection of items that belonged to my paternal grandmother, Katherine Schleich, had been saved for years by an aunt and then passed on to me by her children. The letters were from men who, while held at a POW camp near Trinidad, CO, worked as field hands at my Grandparents’ farm. Throughout the on-line event I shared family recipes, family stories, pictures as well as historical details. Permission to re-write and share the patterns was properly acquired from C&T Publishing. The patterns are available at no cost.
In 2021, I kicked off my second sew-along, Pieces of the Santa Fe Trail. In this event, the blocks, that I wrote patterns for, tell the story of Marion Sloan Russell’s journey on the Santa Fe Trail. Again, permission to share her published story, was properly acquired.
In 2022, I hosted a sew along that featured the story of my maternal grandparents, Forrest & Tressie Teegarden ~ Pieces in the Garden. The blocks in this sew along were 3 inch to 6 inch squares and required multiple blocks to make up a full row.
Want to see past Quilt & Tell submissions? Click here!