Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Family of Quilts

I'm joining Chari's weekly meme over at Happy to Design for another
This was originally posted 10/8/2009 

Summer vacations at Grandma's house always meant sleeping in the "oven" with all my cousins. Grandma had a big old range in the kitchen of course with lots of burners and little oven compartments that I never did understand, but the "oven" that the grandkids inhabited was the upstairs dormer room that heated up like an oven in the Kansas summer. Windows all around the room with window seats over bookcases. Lots of places to curl up or we slept on the floor.  The windows were permanently sealed shut to keep out the perpetual dust, but there were piles and piles of quilts and an old Victrola that we played non-stop until the temperature became bearable and we could finally get to sleep. Of all the recordings we could listen to my favorite was

We all loved Grandma's quilts and we also loved to listen in on all the stories the ladies would tell when the quilting frames were set up in the "front room" and the "Bee" would get into full swing.  It was a tiny little town of about 250 souls that Granddad and Grandma lived in, so I can't imagine that anything much was a secret for very long once the ladies began their buzzing. Those ladies could really make short work of finishing a quilt, although there was one "bad stitcher," whose work was quite often redone once the group dispersed. They loved her dearly and wouldn't have wanted her to leave the group.

My Grandma had 10 grandchildren the first of which was born in 1939, the last in 1956.  She had a plan to have a quilt made for each grandchild before she passed and she finished them by about 1960 with 20 years to spare. Other quilts were made during that same time frame, but the quilts for her grandchildren were always kept in the cupboard in the back hall. They lay neatly folded on the shelf above all the board games and checker sets that we all played with while the adults played Pinochle.

The quilts were pulled out from time to time to admire and each of us had a favorite or two.  As the years passed and we grew up, Grandma realized that she would need a way to choose who received which quilt and eventually she just drew names. None of us received our "favorite," but we loved them all so it didn't really matter. The two I remember that I loved were the State Birds and the State Flowers.  Of the ten quilts, most survive to this day, although one became a dog bed to the horror of the rest of us.  Every family has one of those don't they?

The Grandma quilt I received had won a prize in the county fair for being forward looking and innovative, and here it is almost 50 years later.

These two quilts were also made by my maternal Grandmother and have seen a lot of use over the years.  My children and grandchildren love them because they are "so soft." That's the sign of a well loved quilt.

 This quilt was made by my paternal Grandmother and is one of the few things I have of hers, other than wonderful memories.

The quilt blocks for this quilt were made by my maternal Great Grandmother when she was a very young woman.  After my Grandmother passed away they were among the things packed away in the "shed" for her to get to when she came back to her house once she could come home from the extended care facility.  She never did get to come home, the house had been sold long before she passed away.  The shed however was still on property held by the family and we all pitched in to retrieve and save memories of times past.

 When we opened the box containing these blocks, the three sisters just hooted and laughed.  No one would ever take on putting these together as a quilt because Great Grandma had been inexperienced and not a very talented quilter and none of the blocks were truly square.  They appealed to me and so they came to live with me, eventually becoming this quilt.

This is a fairly "new" quilt that I purchased at a show in Chicago in the early 70s when it was stitched.  Still a favorite of mine and sewn with precision and care.

And the last two are baby quilts also retrieved from the shed, that were used by my maternal Grandfather as an infant. Amazingly still in good shape after all these years and a bunch of those years living in the shed, which in the summer in Kansas must have reached over 180F at least.

Quilts were meant to last a lifetime and these have lasted longer than that.


  1. Candy, I so enjoyed seeing your quilts. I consider handmade quilts real works of art. So many hours and untold love goes into the making of a quilt. I'm glad you rescued the quilt blocks your sisters didn't want. They made a fabulous quilt! I have family quilts too, and each is a treasure. It's always fun to see quilts, so thank you for sharing this post again.

  2. What treasures - thanks for sharing!

  3. Candy, what a wonderful post. Your story reminded me of one I wrote some years ago about sharing the large feather bed at my Aunts house with my cousins. I will have to dust it off and repost it one of these days.

    I have part of an old quilt that my grandmother made while pregnant with my mother. Mom divided it into sections and framed them one Christmas so that all of her children could have a piece of it. Not quite the same as having all of your lovely quilts, but, still something to treasure; as I am sure all of yours are.

  4. I loved this post! Quilts are family art, and those of lucky enough to have quilting artists treasure what they've left to us. I have a wedding quilt from an aunt and two quilts from another aunt, but nothing from my grandmother. All her quilts ended up out at the cottage and didn't survive the wear and tear, not to speak of the mildew and mice of winter - so sad.

  5. I love all of your quilts! They are beautiful. Even the crooked one. I think they are more valuable when you know the stories behind them.~Ames

  6. I adore quilts. These are treasures. They are true works of art.

  7. Hi Candy...

    I can't think of a more precious treasure and family heirloom than a quilt! To think of the many, many hours that went into stitching these beautiful pieces...just boggles my mind! Quilting really is an art form. I loved getting a peek at your lovely collection!

    My Grandma was a quilter as well! She made each of her grandchildren a special quilt. My brother recieved the state bird quilt and my sister recieved the state flower quilt...of couse, I liked mine the best! wink!

    Thank you so much for sharing your lovely collection of quilts with us today for Sunday Favorites!

    Warmest autumn wishes,
    Chari @Happy To Design

  8. Great post! My grandmother was a wonderful quilter and made quilts for her grandchildren, too. I have several others she made, and they are what I will grab first in case of fire! I might get into quilting when I retire -- we'll see!

  9. Good Morning All!

    Hope you had a wonderful long weekend!

    There is something so comforting about these quilts, just the feel of them brings a sense of calm.

    Tricia, I actually made quilts about 30 years ago, in the long dark cold winters in the midwest. It is very relaxing ..... but living with a full size quilt frame set up all winter got to be a drag in a very small house. My kids were young and used it as a tent/fort with great make believe adventures! I gave all of them away as gifts, so my advice would be to save at least one for yourself as a reward! LOL



Thank you for your lovely comments.

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