How to make a quilt unlike anything else

 Make a charm quilt

Colleen Story

Me in 2012 with Thousand Pyramids Charm Quilt(left) made by Marilyn Brophy circa 1989


 Thousand Pyramids Charm Quilt

A charm quilt is made from one shape that can be a square, hexagon, triangle or a pyramid. This one patch charm is known as Thousand Pyramids. The other component that defines a charm quilt is the fabrics, every one is different, not one pyramid is cut from the same piece of cloth. This is amazing to me. I had the privilege to watch my mother choose and organize the pieces for this quilt. I say privilege now, but at the time I was very annoyed with her sitting there in the living room filing through pieces of fabrics so intently that the rest of the world faded from her view. The organizational skill and dedication she used to put together a piece of this complexity was never applied to other tasks like house cleaning or paying bills. My dad was dying of cancer and I realize now the charm quilt was her way of coping.


Seams sewn by hand have stitches that are small and even.

All the pyramids in this quilt are sewn together with a needle and thread, it becomes portable, the kind of thing you can do while watching your kid’s soccer game, waiting in a doctor’s office or sitting in a hospital room. When the doctor told us my dad had to be moved to Billings, which was about 100 miles away, my mother knew what this meant and she would be going there too. She packed a kit with needles, thread, scissors, a thousand or more non-identical fabric pieces, a plastic template the shape of the pyramid, a small sandpaper board and strength I never knew she had. She stayed there until my dad died, day in and day out, making sure he died with dignity and all the time piecing pyramids.

 I use the quilt to tell the story of healing, coping and life.

After my dad died I didn’t think about the pyramid quilt. I moved in with my mother, my marriage was busting up, I had my father’s businesses to run and my mother and I needed each other. I started a quilt for my brother who was going to be married that year. It was an Ocean Waves quilt in cool blues and greens. I worked on it every night when I came home to my mother’s house after a day of working a ridiculous amount of jobs and running 2 businesses. I filled my days so I didn’t have to think about the pain of loosing my father and filled my nights with the Ocean Waves.

My mother completed very few quilts. Her most wonderful quilt, the charm quilt, is still not quilted and is held together with basting stitches, the edges are folded over and safety-pinned so the batting doesn’t hang out and shred. None of the incompleteness of this quilt takes away from its remarkable testimony to her dedication and skill. She did occasionally show her Thousand Pyramids at quilting events, but mostly it sat rolled on a frame waiting to be quilted.

The organizational skill and dedication used to put together a piece of this complexity was never applied to other tasks like house cleaning or paying bills.repeat

When my mom died two years ago and my brothers and I were dividing her things, the quilt came out of hiding. Each of us had good reasons to want it. I was looking at it and something like the Wisdom of Solomon struck me and I said, “let’s cut it into three then we’ll each have a piece.” My brothers were aghast and realizing how far I would go to have peace amongst us, they relinquished the quilt. Now that I have it, I honestly don’t know what to do next. I think it should be hand quilted because it was hand pieced, but it is well basted and could be machine quilted. In the meantime it’s stored safely and sometimes I take it out to a gathering to tell the story of healing, coping and life.

Thousand Pryamids Charm Quilt