Tree of Life

Block Number: 104


By Ginger Todd

The McDowell Quilt Trail positioned Block 104 on the front wall of Sara Vallini’s home on Tuesday, November 7, 2011, at 185 Riverside Drive, Marion, N.C. Sara, who ran the Merle Norman Cosmetic Studio and Vallini’s Bella Donna Salon for 36 years, formerly on West Henderson Street, is hosting the block in memory and honor of her family members.

Retired now for a little over five years, she had noticed the ever-growing quilt block trail throughout the county and the interesting articles in The McDowell News. She has several of the quilts her mother made, using the tacked method, but never made one herself, and decided a block would be in order for her to display in one of her favorite patterns, Tree of Life. Sara drew a rough sketch of what she desired, and presented it to volunteer Mike Lucas, who painted and installed the block. Sarah prefers muted colors and chose the colors for her block while visiting a family member at Autumn Care Nursing Home. Autumn Care displays a likeness of the Tree of Life on its welcome sign, and in other decorations throughout the building, including the fabric of a chair in one of the community rooms. It was from this chair that Sara chose her colors.

The Tree of Life design was first adopted by early American settlers when cargo of Indian and Persian cotton prints were brought in by clipper ships to the Atlantic ports. It was a design common to Oriental rugs; and quilters looking for new ideas, easily converted it to a quilt pattern. It is an heirloom pattern common among the Amish and others in the tradition of American quilting. Religiously inclined settlers of the New World and their descendents found appeal in not only its intrinsic beauty, but also its quality of faith and belief in eternal life.

Although there are several variations of the Tree of Life pattern, the trunk, representing solidness and life-giving roots, is usually in a solid brown colored fabric, while the foliage presents a variation of warmer tones accentuated by a dark background. The Vallini Tree of Life is 3 X 3-foot block and faces west, easily viewable from Riverbend Drive. The trunk and five main branches of the tree are in a medium brown, while the leaves are in softened shades of orange, gold, red, brown and green tones. The gray foreground of the block represents the shadow of the tree and the light tan behind it the soil of the earth. Part of a yellow full moon shines from the upper left corner of the block with two white stars sparkling on a midnight blue background.

Sara’s Tree of Life begins with the first branch on the left of the tree, representing her younger twin sisters Ruth and Ruby, one of whom died at birth. The second branch represents herself, a widow for 43 years, and her late husband Bart. Branch three portrays her sister Edith and her husband Horris; and the fourth and thickest branch in the tree is in memory of her mother and father, Nina and Lant Marlow. The fifth and last branch to the right remains with no family depiction, and titled by Sara as “Eternal Life”. Volunteer Jill Lucas presented the Certificate of Authenticity, which was proudly received by Sara Vallini.

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