Friday, September 07, 2007

Pictures: Family Quilts

I thought I'd try something a little different this weekend, and do a series of visual Open Threads over at Progressive Historians based on my own photography and experience. I thought I'd lead off with something I promised I'd share a long time back: some family quilts.

Quilting has a long distinguished tradition in the US, though not as distinguished as some think, and is a fantastic medium. There are a few quilters in my spouse's midwestern family, and a few quilt traditions, as well as interesting innovations.

The first quilt (on the right) was a hand-embroidered (but machine-quilted, for you purists) bedspread given to us for our wedding by my spouse's grandmother. All the siblings in that generation got one, with unique designs. Definitely a family treasure.

The second quilt (on the left) was made by one of my spouse's great-aunts, a lively lady who haunts dollar stores and made quilts incessantly (still, I think, but we haven't visited the homestead in a while) with fabrics that catch her eye. A visit to her home invariably involved a quilt-showing, and if you like something, odds are pretty good that you can take it home. She calls this pattern an "Indian Blanket" though it's obviously a loose interpretation. The bright colors and black/white sections make it a perfect baby quilt, actually, and it still graces our child's bed sometimes. The third quilt (on the right) is another of her productions. I don't think there's any deep meaning to the pattern -- the basic design of triangular pieces is supposed to represent a windmill, I think -- but it's very typical of her tendency to mix and match things that aren't conventionally used in a patchwork.

The last quilt (on the left) was made by my mother-in-law. The print pieces from the Three Bears/Three Pigs stories are from a commercial kit, I'm fairly sure, but the borders, etc, are hand-pieced. If you click on it and look close, you'll see that the words have been embroidered extra-thick to allow my blind spouse to tell which picture is which. We told these stories over and over, of course, using this quilt.

Any interesting quilt stories in your family?


Penny L. Richards said...

I have a huge (about six feet a side?) handmade Virginia Star quilt, in faded pastel prints, made as a wedding gift in the 1940s, probably in North Carolina. It was given to Mr. & Mrs. John Richardson when the got married in 1948. In 1993, when the widowed Mr. Richardson was moving out of the family home, he donated a bunch of stuff to a church rummage sale in Durham, that I was running. I just couldn't put the quilt in the sale where it would get sold for a few bucks, and this was a decade before eBay. Instead, I wrote a big check (esp. for a grad student) and bought it myself. It took a few years till I lived in a place with high enough ceilings to display it, but it's hanging on the wall behind me as I type this.

Quilts make good decorations for California, because they're more earthquake-safe than heavy, breakable framed things. So my daughter's bedroom has three small quilts on the wall--one made as a baby gift for her, one a gift on the occasion of her brother's birth, and one a personalized alphabet quilt.

Ahistoricality said...

It's great to know the history of these things!

The other great thing about quilts is that they're often reversible. The Little Anachronism has several quilted wall hangings from a Grandmother which have different designs on each side, and every so often, will request a change.

Anonymous said...

My 25-year-old daughter is a quilter. (It's something she picked up and taught herself, since I was absolutely no help.) The first one she sewed was made of club t-shirts from groups she belonged to in high school. Then she went through a stretch of doing video game quilts - Tetris, Pacman, etc. Now she's trying to learn all the old traditional patterns. She's starting a family legacy all on her own.

Suzanne G. said...

Needlework is such an intimate way of writing history. "This was part of the dress in my Kindergarten picture" and "this is part of your christening gown" are wonderful bedtime stories for our little ones.

Creating art out of junk is fabulous all around