Monday, February 1, 2010

My Grandmother's Quilt

When I was a young girl my mother used to store a quilt top made by her mother, my grandmother, in her cedar chest. It was an embroidered quilt top - scattered with simple designs - but my grandmother never finished it, and my mother treasured it. In my teens, my younger brother and I decided to surprise Mom and secretly have the quilt finished for her Christmas present. I still remember riding my bike to the Amish farmhouse on the outskirts out of town to deliver it to the woman who would hand quilt it for us, complete with the poly/cotton border and backing fabric I had selected - what did I know.

A few weeks later I returned to pick up the quilt - it was beautiful, and finally finished, and to my recollection cost a whole of $20 - mostly in the cost of the thread reported the quilter, and just in time for Christmas. My Mother loved her gift - she was completely surprised that we even had the idea to do something so special for her. She used that quilt for years - till basically she wore it out.

I am
now the keeper of the fragments of that quilt and thought I would share a few favorite blocks with you. Here is the date block, 1937 - I find the left reading slant curious. If you look closely in the photos you can see needle holes where the quilting used to be - those stitches are long gone.

My Mother grew up in a large farming family (13 children), land-locked in the Oley Valley. I guess that's why I love these 2 blocks showing large shipping vessels. I can't believe that my Grandmother ever saw such a sight, but I guess these images reflect a degree of wander in her heart.

I love this image of the little girl with her doll (or is it a mother with her child?) in a nurturing pose. The style of the chair is also interesting. Through the years the colors have remained vibrant.

The Japanese lanterns on the left are from a block in the quilt; the lanterns on the right are from one of her aprons. I simply love this design and have used it myself in a quilt which I gave away years ago and have no photos to share with you - always take photos of your quilts!!!

If we found this quilt top today I know many experts would tell us not to quilt it - that we would destroy the history of it. Honestly, I can't disagree more. This was my Mom's quilt - she had years of warmth from it, years of having the memory of her mother close to her. A quilt top in a cedar chest could never bring you that feeling. I know of only one other quilt that my Grandmother made - believe it or not - we used it to keep the draft out of the basement by rolling it up by our cellar door. I rescued it years ago but time was not it's friend.

I have to share this funny story about my Grandmother's quilt. As I said before, we gave it to my Mom on Christmas. We had a house full of family for the Christmas feast, brothers with their young children playing. The cornerstone of every good feast of the day was a bowl of Lipton's onion dip with plenty of chips for dipping. The beverage du jour for the underlings was cream soda - the good stuff - the red cream soda. So happens my toddler-sized nephew, who shall remain un-named, overdosed on that special cream soda and onion dip. Yes - he vomited all over the quilt, only hours after my Mother was overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness of her gift. Luckily my Mother was not witness to the event. I looked at my sister-in-law and with a look of horror on my face she knew, as mother of the "vomiter", it was on her shoulders to remedy the situation or face physical harm. Thankfully - it all came out in the wash - but remains a favorite family story for all but the "vomiter".


Kelly Meanix said...

I love the blocks! Especially the lanterns and the girl/woman in the chair. So charming!

Christine said...

Thank you for sharing your story!! The quilt is such a treasure and I couldn't agree more with actually using a quilt. I'd be horrified if one of my quilts just sat in a chest somewhere. Glad to hear the quilt was saved by the washer!! :) Christine

Cheryl said...

It is such a treasure to have something that your Grandmother's hands touched. I hope that our children and grandchildren are as thoughtful about our quilts.

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