In each issue of American Patchwork & Quilting this year, we have a column called My Most Cherished Quilt, which showcases a cherished quilt from a well-known designer. I love the idea of this, so wanted to share mine.
I don’t come from a long line of quilters. I sometimes feel envious of people who had parents and grandparents who quilted. And envious of all the beautiful antique quilts passed down to them through generations. I have some people in my family who sew – they made their own garments or their own curtains. But no quilters. (Although, I’m working on my mom!)
A few years into my job as an editor of our quilting magazines, and after I started quilting myself, my aunt gifted me an antique quilt made by my great-great grandmother. Now, I know I just said that I don’t have quilters in my family. And that’s still true. My grandmother doesn’t remember her grandmother ever quilting. No other quilts exist from her in my family. And the one I was gifted was never finished. It’s my guess she started making it to bide her time as she got older – maybe with her fellow church ladies or the women in her neighborhood. Maybe she died before she ever got the chance to finish it – or maybe she didn’t like the process and gave up after a certain amount of time. But this quilt means everything to me.
The quilt is a small throw size made from basket blocks. The blocks are bright 1930 prints on a cream background. The quilt was hand pieced and hand appliquéd. Some places are make-do, as tiny scraps were pieced together to form a larger fabric unit in the blocks. It’s nothing intricate and, in fact, is a very common pattern and fabrics for that time period.
Over the years, the quilt had a sheet sewed to the back of it to help hide the seams. And it was in a the house of a smoker, so it was incredibly yellow. There are places where the blocks have worn thin or have holes (either from moths or unsafe storage over the year). It needs a lot of repairs and a lot of love. Since the quilt has been in my possession, I’ve carefully washed the quilt a few times in my tub with Retro Clean, which is a soap specifically made for antique quilts. The yellow is mostly gone and it’s probably as bright as it will be. I’ve also removed the sheet backing, which revealed rips and deterioration of the borders. Next on my list is to repair the holes and replace the borders with fabric that matches as closely as I can. Luckily, there are so many 1930s reproductions on the market now, that I should be able to come close to matching the color.
I’ve let the quilt sit for a long time, because I don’t know how to finish it. I don’t want to ruin it or compromise the integrity. But here’s what I’ve learned. The universe gave this quilt to me to finish. It’s a work by both my great-great grandmother and myself. She started it and it has come to me to finish. Yes, it will have modern fabrics in it. And I may even machine quilt it instead of hand quilt. But it just makes this quilt even more special that we both could give it our best and put our spin on it for a quilt that can be passed down and has a story to it.
Thanks for joining me for “happy hour”,
Do you have your own cherished quilt you want to share? Tell me about it in the comments or tag a photo on Instagram using the hashtag #mycherishedquilt.