Malachi's Promise "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers...." Malachi 4:6

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Q is for Quilts - Family History Through the Alphabet

When I hold a quilt made by one of my ancestors I can almost feel a physical connection with her, almost as though she's giving me a hug.  Quilts pass through the hands of their makers again and again, from washing and ironing the fabric, to cutting the pattern pieces, to stitching the layers together with needle in hand, as the quilter creates something to warm and comfort a loved one.  Even the most humble quilt has an endearing quality because of the time, care, and effort one of my foremothers took to create it.  Quilts become fragile with use, often ending in tatters and shreds, then discarded.  I'm grateful to have several that have withstood the years of use.

This is a poor photo of a beautiful Dresden Plate quilt that my mother made and that she and my grandmother quilted.  The 9 1/2" plates are made from scraps of 1940s and 1950s fabrics then stitched onto 10" muslin squares.  As a child I appreciated the bright colors of the plates but looking at the quilt now, I'm amazed at the fineness of the quilting.  As far as I know, my mom and grandmother did not quilt on a regular basis so I don't know where they learned the skill.  Many sections of the plates are now threadbare and there's a hole in the middle.  The quilt has been retired from regular use for a dozen or more years.

My sister-in-law, Jan, made this sampler quilt for my older daughter when she was a baby a little over 30 years ago.  Jan's avocation was quilting and she dedicated many hours to the craft.  She was meticulous in pattern and fabric preparation, making sure each piece of fabric was cut on the square.  All of her quilts were handmade from start to finish.  No rotary cutter for her.  She used paper patterns and cut the pieces with scissors, then stitched each quilt by hand.  Jan became so proficient that she was awarded a grant to teach apprentices the craft that she had so carefully and skillfully mastered.  This quilt warmed and cuddled two babies and is still in excellent condition. 

This Wedding Ring quilt was made by my father's paternal grandmother, Tressa (Froman) Doyle, sometime in the 1920s or 1930s.  I think the quilt was hand-pieced and it was definitely hand-quilted with very fine, even stitches.  Some have said that Maw was somewhat grumbly.  True or not, she must have been tender-hearted toward my father to make this quilt for him before he left home.  It has been lightly used and well cared for.

I'm grateful for the connection quilts provide to these relatives I knew and to a grandmother I never had the opportunity to know in person.


This is a post for the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge created by Alona Tester of Genealogy and History News.  Thank you for hosting, Alona.




7 comments:

  1. You are very lucky to have several old, family pieces. I remember a quilt my Great-grandmother made that my grandma had, but I've no idea what happened to it. I know it didn't stay in the family. Ugh. I do have two that my grandma on my father's side made in the 70s. I enjoyed the post!

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  2. Nancy, these are beautiful. I'm a quilter myself (still learning) and I love to see great examples of the craft. I have one quilt from my great aunt and I'm amazed at our ancestor's ability to beautifully hand quilt. I'm a machine girl, but I recently began a paper-piece hexagon quilt...it will take forever, but the process is very comforting. Perhaps that is how our ancestors felt, too. Thank you for sharing some inspiration!

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    1. Hi, Heather. I'm a quilter, too, also still learning, but I don't hand stitch blocks, either. Those are sewn on the machine, but I do hand quilt. Hexagons seem really popular just now and I suspect that they could be as peaceful and comforting as hand quilting. I'd love to see some of your work! Maybe you'll share your great aunt's quilt in a post?

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    2. Nancy, here is a link to a post I wrote about the quilt a couple of years ago. Although I think you have inspired me to write a more in-depth post! http://leavesfortrees.blogspot.com/2011/02/treasure-chest-thursday-aunt-margies.html

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  3. Beautiful quilts! I'm always so impressed when someone makes a quilt completely by hand. I don't have the patience for it.

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  4. They are beautiful Nancy!!!
    Quilting was not an activity with my family, here in South Australia, but I do have a beautiful hand knitted, in cotton, double bed quilt made by my Great Great Grandmother who died in 1922. It's knitted but looks like fine lace :-) Thanks for sharing... Catherine

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    1. Hi, Catherine. Any items handmade by an ancestor are wonderful to have, whether it's quilted or knitted, crocheted or made any other way. I'd love to see your g-g-grandmother's quilt! Maybe you'll post a photo?

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I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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