Thursday, January 16, 2014

Patchwork, Then & Now.

You may have noticed that I've gotten pretty interested in quilts recently.  I have always loved them and wanted to make them for such a long time.  I am so glad I decided to try.  I am having a wonderful time practicing and improving my skills with each project.  Because as all Pride & Prejudice fans know, the only way to become truly proficient at something is to practice!  (Which character said that?  If you know, leave a comment!)

My interest in quilts stems from the quilts in my family that I have seen and used over the years.  My mom has said more than once that I must get my crafty "talent" from my father since she does not craft in any way, shape, or form, and has never been interested in learning how to do crafty stuff.  I was thinking about this and realized that while I am like my dad in many ways and have certainly inherited several things from him, the urge to make stuff comes from other members of my family. 

Both of my great-grandmothers could and did sew and make quilts.  Of course, this was very common for women long ago--they made quilts out of necessity and to make good use of clothing that had been outgrown or served its purpose as a garment.  Rather than waste the fabric, they cut it up and make quilts.  They made quilts out of feed sacks.  Waste not, want not. 

Last year, when I decided that I was going to learn how to make quilts despite my fear of the sewing machine, my initial intention was to repurpose old clothes and make quilts.  I thought I could make quilts without spending much money. 

Ha. Ha. Ha. 

I have a pretty good hunch that my great-grandmothers would turn over in their graves if they knew how much money I've spent on fabric in the last six months, or how much a yard of "designer" fabric costs these days.  Keep in mind, of course, that both of my great-grandmothers were born before 1900.  I knew only one of these ladies, and she died when I was four so I don't remember much about her.  I would have loved the opportunity to know these women.  Through their quilts, though, I feel like I do know them a little. 

I'm lucky to have quilts made so long ago by women in my family.  My grandma was an only child so in addition to her mother's things, we also have several quilts that we know or think her two sisters made.  While I don't remember my great-grandmother, I did have a chance to spend some time with her sisters.  I loved visiting their farm with my grandparents when I was a kid.  They had a big cast-iron stove and I loved to add corn cobs to the fire.  Everything in their house was as neat as a pin.  Everything in their house was also old-fashioned.  Just old, really--but it all looked nice and new because they had taken very good care of it and were excellent housekeepers, just as my grandmother was.  I did not inherit that gene!

So, I thought it would be fun to show a quilt that I just finished up alongside a vintage one made by one of my relatives, either my great-grandmother or her sisters.  My mom isn't for sure as to who made this one and anyone else who might know is, of course, deceased. 

Here's my quilt:
 The back of it is nice and bright.  I might actually like the back even better. 
 The blocks in this quilt were based on a pattern in the book Modern Blocks: 99 Quilt Blocks from your Favorite Designers.    (Unfortunately I forgot to jot down the name of this block's designer, but you'll find it in the book!)  I modified (simplified) the block just a bit.   I wanted a few bold blocks "floating" in lots of solid color.  After working with all that plain gray fabric, I was ready for something colorful again, so that's why the quilt back is the way it is. 

Now, here's a long-ago quilt, much more traditional in design than mine:

 Obviously this is a Nine-Patch.  Notice that the binding looks a bit out-of-place; that's because it was added at a later date; my mom says that my grandmother, who did not sew, hired someone to replace the binding when it got worn.  The back of the quilt looks like this:
My mom says that my grandparents used this quilt a lot.  It is in good shape but definitely shows some wear.  And it is so, so soft!  I would love to snuggle up with it but I don't for fear of tearing it.  Or something getting spilled on it, which is a frequent occurrence in our home.  But I do have it displayed on my quilt rack so I can look at it. 

I don't know the exact age of this quilt, but I'd guess it was made in the 40s or 50s.  If my mom can remember it from her childhood, it is at least that old.  It might even be a bit older.  I would love to know what pieces of clothing were cut up to make this quilt.  Work shirts?  Feed sacks?  Probably both, and much more.  There's history here, I just wish I knew more about it! 

I have more quilts to share in the coming weeks, so check back!  It's been fun to get them out and ask my mom what she knows about them.  We even discovered a "mystery quilt" that I will share in hopes of learning a little more about the pattern. 

No comments:

Post a Comment