Thursday, January 03, 2008

Vintage and Firsts

Today I dropped by Paula's shop after an appointment. She's had this beautiful vintage quilt for awhile and I have fallen in love! Isn't it pretty? It's in perfect condition as well. I love the colors and the beautiful hand-quilting. I especially like how each piece in the star design actually consists of patched sections of fabric. It makes for a crazy-quilt effect in a very well-mannered way! I don't know how old this quilt might be, but I am hoping some quilting readers might give me a clue.

I also received a nice message from Elizabeth Joy from Wildflower Morning today. She asked:

What quilts have you made? Do you have your first quilt? Maybe it is time for you to choose some fabric that sings to you, and piece it together into some lovely winter warmth. Can you hand quilt?

First of all, thank you, Elizabeth Joy for the questions! I appreciate 'something' to talk about on this January day. I'm sure you are partially inquiring because of my post this morning where I was lamenting the lack of exciting topics for January. But, I also know you really are interested, and I appreciate that. I think these questions from Elizabeth Joy could have me rambling on this subject for the entire month (don't worry; I will try to be concise!). I'll start today by tackling the first question and will respond to the others as time progresses.

I am not sure I can remember all the quilts I have made. I do not consider myself a quilter, although I love to dabble in quilting! I admire those who artistically piece quilts and create beautiful pieces of this fine art out of textiles in many shades and patterns and colors. And, I do enjoy making quilts for personal satisfaction and enjoyment. I have had a good example set by the women in my extended family. I can remember my great-grandmother who quilted daily up into her mid-eighties. She could hardly walk, but she would scoot to her treadle sewing machine where she would spend the day making pieced quilts in a crazy patch design. She literally did this day after day. My grandmother and great-grandfather would help her tie the quilts and then they were given to charity by the dozen, literally! My grandmother and mother also made quilts, although neither of them would probably consider themselves 'quilters' either. Our quilting heritage comes from a definitely practical perspective and is rich in family history and symbolism. Grandma's and Mother's quilts are the ones we use daily on all the family beds. I can still describe to you the outfits that mom, sis, or I made from the fabric that provided the left-over scraps for the quilts we donated to our Grandmother! These quilts are cherished family heirlooms.

One of the first quilts I ever made was when I was about 20 years old. My family spent the Christmas holiday at Grandma's house and we girls spent the entire time quilting. As a young woman, I had other ideas for my quilt than the crazy-quilt patched quilts the rest of the ladies were making. I selected two beautiful patterned sheets. One was a multi-colored green with a fern design and the backing was a plain olive green. With batting in the middle, we created a quilt by stitching the top and bottom together in a pretty design. Butterflies and scallops made up the pattern that I invented and penciled onto the quilt top. Great-grandmother, Grandmother, Mother, and I all hand-quilted. I remember, in my youthful wisdom, that I was somewhat annoyed that all our stitches were not evenly matched. Great-grandmother's were very large and far apart (she had a hard time seeing). Grandmother's were smaller, my mother's smaller yet, and mine the smallest. Today this quality is one that makes this quilt especially meaningful to me. Each stitch not only speaks of love, but of the unique qualities of each person who stitched it. It's been more than thirty years since that quilt was stitched. It's been much loved and well-used, but I still have it and cherish it. Other quilts have been crafted that have been more elaborate and pieced, but this quilt is the one that represents four generations of women who have stitched a piece of themselves into their work. Today Great-grandmother and Mother are gone. . .but their memory remains in many ways, including in each stitch they prepared in this loving way.


  1. Anonymous10:02 PM

    I remember the very first quilt I made. It is simple squares sewn together at random--no pattern, other than not having two of the same pieces side by side. I was in my early 20's, sewed for myself and my toddler and decided to make it as a way to use up my scraps. Actually, it isn't technically a quilt, but rather a comfort, as it is tied. Years later my husband surprised me with a hand-made quilting frame for Christmas, but the memories that rush over me when I open up that first quilt and trace my hand over the fabric squares vividly bring back my early married years, with all the sweet memories blurred forever by the passage of time. Heavens! It makes me sound like an old lady, but I am just in my middle fifties.
    And to think that those dramatic floral prints of the early seventies are now highly desirable!

  2. What a nice story!! I belong to a quilt group and have now made three quilts and am working on my 4th. I don't consider myself a quilter either because I make the top and have it quilted by machine. I still treasure everyone and can't believe that I have had a hand in making them!! Gwen


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