Until I was 34, I didn’t sew. Unless you count the lopsided J pillow I made in Ms. McCauley’s 7th grade Home Economics class… and I don’t. It took me a long time to want to learn. My great grandmother June Moss loved
quilting. She made quilts as wedding gifts for her grandchildren. She also created a quilt for each of her great grandchildren. Mine was pink, like the rest of my 7-year-old room. I appreciated the color, but had no idea the amount of time, energy and patience it took until I attempted it myself.
In September, I was focused on transition times when my youngest son started preschool. As I stared at mounds of baby clothes I had left after consigning, garage selling and giving things away, I didn’t know what to do with the remnants. A lot of items like the onsies, all four of my boys wore, just made me long for a baby to snuggle. With six of us in a two bedroom condo, space is limited, and I didn’t want to keep them in a Rubbermaid bin forever. Then, I remembered one of the heirloom gifts my husband inherited from his grandmother, a memorial quilt.
No one alive remembers who created the quilt or what year it was made. It hung in a guest bedroom for a number of years, and was later stowed in the cedar chest my husband inherited. I’ve spent a lot of time studying the hand pressed seams and stitches. The colored fabric in each square is made from clothing scraps. Some of the more delicate material has deteriorated over time to expose the backing under it. I have studied the cotton and silk. There aren’t any man-made polyester bits, or blended fabrics, so I know it’s old. Some fabrics look like former neckties.
I suspect it is a memorial quilt because of the predominate black . I know that it was not utilitarian, but for display due to the delicate fabrics. I wish that there was a document that went with it to explain its significance. I wish I knew who spent countless hours piecing and sewing it. Was it his great grandmother Ruth Gould? Most importantly, I wish that I knew who it was memorializing so I could honor them. I don’t have the patience, skill, experience or attention to detail to create a quilt like that. So I made this instead.
I made a mini throw from the onsies. I cut the front and back pieces into 6 inch squares, sewed an x across the middle with light yellow cotton thread. I created a 1/2 inch border around each square so it can fray and be a rag style after its washed a few times. I thought this would be easier because it is more forgiving of the knit material shifting under the sewing machine. I’m not a super precise detail person, so I haven’t had a burning desire to quilt.
I have spent the past few years sewing simple things without patterns. (I’m a rebel, and don’t like the restriction of following the rules). The more time I spend sewing, the more I learn, and appreciate the hours my female ancestors spent dedicated to clothing their family members, and expressing themselves through handiwork.
Genealogy Jen’s Weekly Challenge: What talents and skills did your ancestors have? Do you share a passion for the same things? Do other family members? Take a moment to record a memory you have of a relative’s hobby and how it influenced your passion for the same thing. Bonus Points- Make something as a gift for someone highlighting your talent.
This is a great post, Jen. I like the idea of recognizing the talents and skills of ancestors and how they came down the line. I always think of my grandmother’s hands when I make bread; my mother when I make pie crust.
As a farm family, we grew up sewing in 4-H, and which we brought home, and which we all in various ways continue. The “we” I’m thinking of right now is my sisters and brother.
It’s funny that although I left the farm as soon as I could, everyplace I lived, I had to plant. Something. I even tried to grow strawberries in New Mexico because we’d had a strawberry patch on the farm!!
I enjoyed this. And like your posts in general. J.
Thank you so much Janet for the positive feedback. I think most people view genealogy as a pretty dry/ boring subject. I love it, because I find a sense of connection with family members I never knew, and it helps me find balance and perspective about how I focus my energy and time. When you get to know the people, it’s more than names and dates.
Thank you for sharing your stories. There is something so satisfying about eating home grown produce. I think it tastes better, because you have to nurture it.