Sunday, June 27, 2021

Every Stitch Tells a Story - In Praise of Quilts

I don't know when my love affair with quilts began but I know I was very young. Perhaps it started with my first quilt, a doll blanket made by my grandmother. The stitches were tiny, simple squares, but it was all that Baa or Betsy Wetsy needed to keep cozy in our Michigan winter.  She also made this one, not long after. They are still in use, if for no more than decoration!


Time passes. I tried almost every craft and did a few rather well. I cross-stitched, knit, and did loads of needlepoint. But I never could muster the patience to stitch together tiny pieces of fabric into a quilt. So I bought them instead.


Think about it. Every piece needs first to be measured from fabrics, often carefully selected to work together; then cut, very straight. Hand, or now often, machine-stitched into a flower, a basket, a star or some other pattern. Then pulled together as a perfect whole and stitched again. A border added. A layer of quilting batting and a back layer. And then quilted, often into intricate patterns with swirls. Even when one makes a small wall hanging or table mat, there is no instant gratification. Then imagine the women of times past, working individually and collectively, sharing stores as they stitched, creating blankets of warmth for their families that would help protect them during harsh winters with no central heating.


Quilters work hard. Carefully. Precisely. And they have to have very good eyesight!

My quilt collection runs the gamut from vintage to modern quilts purchased online or at a store. But they have one thing in common -- they all get used in one way or another. 

This isn't always good -- when you have cats that aren't declawed you take your chances. I have bits of fluff sticking out where someone got too aggressive and I've washed out cat hurl, hairballs and most recently, mouse remains. But they are joyful to me, made by others to be used and shared. (Back 13 years ago, I did a post on a similar subject called "Patchwork.") It was time for a reboot!

Every quilt tells a story, some of which I know, some of which I don't. The first quilt I bought for myself was this wedding ring quilt and it was purchased in St. Mary's, Ontario, when my friend Gina and I did a road trip. (I need a better photo of this. Stimpy loved this quilt so much that probably a dozen patches are in need of repair or restitching.)


It was made by a Mennonite quilter (or perhaps a group) and was on the bed for ages. I wouldn't know until more than 30 years later when I did genealogy research that I came from a line of Mennonites going back to the 1500s in Switzerland and Germany. I cannot begin to count the stitches in the piecing and pattern. I think of my Mennonite great grandmother and wonder if she, too, made quilts to keep the family warm when winter descended on West Michigan.

Many of my quilts were found in antiquing expeditions with my friend, Richard. This was the first vintage quilt I bought, a lap quilt. I love the bright colors.


This was from another road trip with Richard to an antique fair. Every one of the quilts from that period brings back good memories of long drives, hot walks through fairgrounds and tightly crowded shops, all in search of something beautiful, something loved and with a story. Again, we may not know the story, but it is there, in every single stitch.


Some of my favorites have come via Richard, either as purchases or holiday gifts. I bought this one from him -- it's enormous and very light, the perfect summer quilt. It will go on the bed after the Fourth of July (more on that in a minute!)


The quilt on the guest room wall came from Richard as well. It looks perfect in there. The one on the bed was a pre-yard sale find that once belonged to my friend, Judy. It is impossible for me to look at either of these without being reminded of good times we all shared.

The quilts at the cottage are a mix of vintage and store-bought. The one you see hanging on the quilt rack at the foot of the bed was an antique store find (with Richard) in Coldwater, MI. Those teeny, tiny squares appear to be hand done but with more of a synthetic, possibly plastic-derived thread, which makes it more recent. The one of the bed came straight from the department store.

The quilt on the other bed at the cottage is also a "store" quilt.


This quilt, underneath Gypsy, is from another antique hunt (with Richard). I love the bright colors in this pattern.


In the years since, looking at millions of stitches, I have become filled with admiration for those remarkable artists who create quilts, whether from their own pattern or from very traditional ones, like this -- the first large vintage quilt in my collection. Years after I bought it, Richard said it reminded him of swastikas, which really upset me deeply. (Actually, if you go with his concept, its more like swastikas from one with dyslexia.)  I've tried to find the name of the pattern but so far, no luck. However, I do NOT think that was the intent! I prefer to think of them as fun windspinners.


Cats make the best quilt models. Here is Stimpy in his favorite spot at the holidays on Grandma's super-heavy quilt. Trust me, no one was turning over once they got under this but they were very warm during those cold winter nights on the farm!

The quilt over the arm of the chair by that doll quilt made by my grandmother is another from Ontario -- Strathroy. It covers the chair Lizzie likes to scratch and has saved the slip cover! When I look at this one, I remember stopping at an antique mall while Rick visited a client in the building across the street en route to visiting our friends Suzanne and Jim. I want to hit that mall again!


Here's one more quilt story before we go -- and it's a good one. This wonderful red, white and blue star quilt was another Christmas gift from Richard. But it's history, indirectly with me, goes back a long way. 


In the 1990s I dated a fellow named Doug and after our break-up became very good friends with his ex-wife Bonnie, whom I introduced to Richard. Many years later, Bonnie gave the quilt to Richard as a gift, saying that it was made by Doug's grandmother. She said when he left he didn't take or come back for it so she thought it was time to let it go. 


Some years later, Richard passed it on to me. He had known both me and Doug during that time together. I like it. I'd like to keep it. But I think I may have to give it back, if Doug wants it. After all, if my grandma made it, I'd want it back. But I'm keeping it through the summer holidays for sure!


And, a post script: I'll probably never get all the stains out of this quilt.


But I did get the mouse remains more or less out.

Thanks to all with wonderful advice and tips! 

Sharing with:      Love Your Creativity    /     Tuesday Turn About     /     Let's Keep In Touch    /    Share Your Style   /   All About Home     /   Pink Saturday    

54 comments:

Iris Flavia said...

How cute is that.
My MIL made clothes for our Elmo and a cow to go to Australia with us, as protection. By golly, I was 24!
Sadly quilts are "unknown" here.
Oh, boy, I never would have the patience for doing this, but they are sooo beautiful!

Mouse remains?! Huhhh.
But, ohhh, such a cute pic of Stimpy!

Nice story about the last quilt (not the mouse one, LOL).

Now I really wonder why this is not common here? They are so beautiful! And I could imagine that they warm due to the many pieces put together making room for air to be heated from the body.
Impressive post, thank you!

Valerie-Jael said...

Beautiful quilts. I only made one quilt, hand-sewn, and gave it to my daughter many years ago, but I don't know if she still has it. Have a great day, enjoy your beautiful quilts! Hugs, Valerie

Pamela said...

Cats and quilts - two of my favorite things! Great post.

Rustic Pumpkin said...

What a delightful post! As one who has done a variety of crafts too, I shall pass my unfinished cross stitch over to you and I shall quilt, if that's all right with you? My old love is quilting, though I have not done so for a while now as painting is my new love. I am fickle!
If everything ever permits and you visit the UK again you must make time on your agenda to visit the American Museum at Claverton Manor near Bath. Their display of quilts will astound you. Hugs, Deb

eileeninmd said...

Hello, Jeanie

Wow, you have a lot of beautiful quilts. It is nice that each one has a happy memory for you.
The kitties do make good quilt models. One of my favorites is the red/white and blue stars.
Lovely post. Have a great day and a happy new week!

yonosoymillenium said...

Hello, I have loved this post, I have been the most interesting.
I loved your post, I did not know your blog, do you want us to follow us? you tell me. regards

Lynne said...

Quite a quilt collection you have Jeanie . . .
Interesting histories, family stories and friendships . . .
I do like the white one, with designs, that is with you now
and may be returned to Doug.
(And I hope “mousers” are never found on or near your quilts again.)

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Miriam is a quilter so I see this creative process going on all the time. It is an amazing talent.

Bonnie said...

How nice to remember all the stories of your quilts. They are works of art for sure. The patience and skill to quilt is so impressive. You are so right. Quilters need good eyesight.
I have three quilts from my grandmother I have used for tablescapes.
Happy 4th of July

My name is Erika. said...

Your quilts are gorgeous Jeanie. You have so many pretty ones. My daughter took to quilting. I tried years ago but straight lines and nice tight corners are something beyond me. And they take so much patience. I keep wanting to try again. Maybe one day. I did enjoy seeing your beauties. What a wonderful collection Jeanie. They look great in your house too. And the cottage! Have a wonderful rest of the weekend and thanks for sharing these with us. I enjoyed seeing them. Hugs-Erika

Carole @ From My Carolina Home said...

It is wonderful how you cherish and care for your vintage quilts. They are all lovely. That each one holds a memory for you of finding it or using it is delightful.

Miss Val's Creations said...

What an amazing collection of quilts you have Jeanie! I would not have the patience for this craft either. It does create a wonderful heirloom to pass down. Those made in a quilting bee must have the most entertaining stories behind them.

La Table De Nana said...

Such a diverse and beautiful collection!

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

You have a substantial collection with a nice series of patterns. Lucky you. No one in my family quilted but my brother married a talented woman who has done all sorts of handwork until she discovered quilting. It was her favorite medium until recently. (arthritis makes it hurt to quilt now) I have a nice collection of her work in lap quilts and wall hangings. I've purchased quilts for beds for decades and have worn them out from daily use. Loved seeing your vintage finds.

Martha said...

They are all so beautiful and I love the stories that go along with them. My very favorite is the first vintage quilt you bought. That's the kind I've always wanted. Have a wonderful Sunday!

shoreacres said...

The quilt in the third photo down, and the one Gypsy is laying on, is the pattern known as Grandmother's Flower Garden. I have one in the same pattern that my grandmother and her friends made. When I look at it, I can find a lot of memories: there are pieces from my old sundresses and playsuits, my mother's dresses, and my dad's shirts. One of grandma's apron's even made it in. It's a treasure, for sure.

Penny from Enjoying The Simple Things said...

I love quilts. My mom quilted. So did my grandmother.

Mereknits said...

My Grandmother was a quilter as is my sister. My Grandmother made me a wedding quilt when I was 1, she never saw me married but I have that quilt. I think it would fit a full size bed, it is precious to me. Thank you for these wonderful stories.

Marilyn Miller said...

I had forgotten that you had a collection of quilts. I also love quilts and probably have quite a few if I pulled them all together. That Fourth of July quilt is amazing. I have never seen one like it. I love that first one too, just seeing the fabric selections from a different era is fun. They are all wonderful. Oh yes, Love the one hanging on the wall too. I love seeing quilts appreciated and hung. Thanks for sharing your quilts and kitties with us.

Linda @ Life and Linda said...

Such beautiful works of art. Each one has it's own story. My mom made some quilts. Such treasure Jeanie.

Divers and Sundry said...

Quilts are an amazing art form, requiring such tiny, intricate work and a real eye for the finished piece. I'm impressed by the variety of shapes and patterns there are. You have surrounded yourself with beauty :)

Ricki Treleaven said...

You have such a pretty collection! Do you follow the blog The Westie Julep? Katie is a quilter, and I enjoy seeing her beautiful quilts.

gigi-hawaii said...

They are all so pretty with interesting stories to tell. I didn't know that your ancestors came from Switzerland and Germany. Awesome! So funny to read that one quilt came from your ex-boyfriend's ex-wife via your current boyfriend. Yes, I agree with you that it should be returned to Doug.

DUTA said...

I'm like the cat - enjoying the quilt but not capable of making one myself.

Mary Rose's said...

Chica!
The mystery quilt pattern might be the Virginia Reel. I say *might be* because I am not a quilter but I *am* a Google fiend.

Here's a link:
https://www.generations-quilt-patterns.com/virginia-reel-quilt-block.html

When I see all the tiny cutting, piecing, stitching and pressing that went into even ONE block of a pattern like this, I'm wowed.

Love your quilt treasury!
XOXO

Mary Rose's said...

Chica,

The mystery swastika-like quilt could be a Virginia Reel.
Look at this link:

www.generations-quilt-patterns.com/virginia-reel-quilt-block.html

What a treasury of quilts you have, and stories to go with them.

XOXO

Rajani Rehana said...

Lovely post

Joanne Huffman said...

What a beautiful array of quilts!

Judy at GoldCountryCottage said...

Oh, Jeanie, your quilt stories are wonderful and you do have a very pretty assortment. I only have a couple of quilts that I have picked up here and there but I do have the one that my great-grandmother pieced together using what I am only assuming were bits of clothing from my grandmother and her siblings when they were young. It never was quilted though but treasured none the less..Happy Weekend..xxoJudy

Jenn Jilks said...

I missed the quilting knack, as well as crochet and knitting. I'm happy to look at them though.
I love the cats, and I hear you about throw up on bedding!

Buttercup said...

Beautiful! I didn't have a Betsy Wetsy, but I did have a well loved Tiny Tears.

Debbie-Dabble Blog and A Debbie-Dabble Christmas said...

Jeanie,
I just adore your quilt collection.... I have to admit that quilts are not something I remember growing up with....My Mother did not have any, nor was she interested in them...
I always wanted to learn how to quilt...Mt one Aunt and her daughter started their own quilted group and would make beautiful quilts for everyone in my family that got married....Of course, they started doing that after I was already married for several years so I never got one of their beautiful handmade quilts....
Thanks for sharing! I hope you are enjoying your weekend...
Hugs,
Debbie

Sarah said...

Oh, how this post speaks to me. I, too, have long loved and admired quilters and their amazing works. One of my goals has always been to learn to quilt, so one of the very first things I did in retirement was sign up for a quilt class. I had taken a class years before where we made a different square over the course of the class, but they were samples to learn something specific and did not relate to each other. I signed up for the perfect glass for me. It was a beginner quilting glass that took us through each stage of making a quilt top. Each week we had homework that needed to be completed to move to the next step the following week. By the end of the six weeks, I had a finished quilt top ready to quilt. OK, I have to admit, I dropped the quilt ball at that point. We began extensive travel and the quilt top lingered unquilted, till my sister-in-law took pity one visit and took it home to quilt sent it back a finished quilt. To my credit though, I did finish two other quilts, start to finish. That done, I decided I didn't have another quilt in me. 😂😂😂
My love of quilts through the years resulted in a beautiful collection of quilts from other hands. Like you, they are used in our home. They are truly works of art. You have inspired me to work towards creating a post of my own on our quilts. I recently received a quilt as a gift and want to showcase it. I'm waiting till this remodel is complete.
Love seeing your pretty collection. Sadie likes to snuggle in quilts too and fortunately doesn't scratch them.
Thanks for sharing this wonderful look at your quilts!

Karen said...

Did you try putting peroxide on the stubborn stains?
I just finished making a quilt for my daughters 40th birthday, but forgot to take a photo. I hope she sends me one.
I think my quilting days are over. Quilting just kills my back.

Karen said...

I forgot to mention that the aunt I am researching for is of Mennonite heritage. Many of her folks are in Michigan by way of upstate NY by way of Ontario.

Prims By The Water said...

What beautiful quilts! My fav is that red white and blue one. Geez I wonder why? LOL I have quite a few quilts myself even one from my paternal gramma. Janice

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

I so enjoyed hearing about your wonderful quilt collection, Jeanie. Each one such works of art and enormous patience! I've made quilted pillows, but alas have no patience to go further.

William Kendall said...

Quite a variety of them!

gretchenjoanna said...

Such a great collection you have! Quilts that go to your home are loved and treasured. Thanks for the tour, Jeanie.

handmade by amalia said...

I love your collection of quilts! It is one craft that I really hope to learn one day.
Amalia
xo

Jenny Woolf said...

I always love exhibitions of quilts. We don't have room to store many so I don't buy them, but am always amazed at the variety and creativity of them. I don't think you need to worry about the swastika quilt. For a start the "arms" are pointing the wrong way. And that has always been a good luck symbol. But, in fact, it doesn't even look like that to me - I think it's just a cheerful design. Interesting that the swastika, which has been good luck for centuries, has been perverted by fascists. I notice that the penitents in the Santa Semana processions in Spain, wear outfits strongly reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan. Of course they predate them by centuries.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

My grandma and I made my first quilt together when she was staying with us, and that is a happy memory.

The French Hutch said...

You have a wonderful collection of quilts Jeanie. Like you, I could never find time or patience to sew a quilt together. I am fortunate to have one of my grandmom's quilts, one she make with pieces of my mom's dresses. My MIL was a quilter, she made so many quilts and wall hanging and I quite a few from her she gave me over the years. Every tiny little stitch includes so much history. What a legacy they left. Happy week of the the Fourth.

Linda Stoll said...

LOVE those vintage quilts, Jeanie!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I, too, love quilts. What a labor of love. Now that my mom is retired, she is learning how to quilt and is loving it. She plans to make a quilt for every grandchild for graduation. She has 10 so has her work cut out for her! She recently made a quilt for my grandma that looks like a scrabble game with the names of my grandparents and all their kids/spouses.

The mom of a blogging friend made quilts for both of our boys and they have gotten so much use. We always have a quilt on the floor during the baby stage for laying/playing/rolling. Her mom has seen pics of our boys on the quilts and is so happy they are getting used and aren’t tucked away in a closet. A former coworker of phils has also made both boys quilts. Paul sleeps work his Dino one during the colder months of the year!

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

What a wonderful collection. I had quite a few antique quilts that I displayed in our 1730's house in New Hampshire. When we moved to Florida, I sold them all but two of the oldest.

grandma of 5 said...

After reading your comment about Mennonite ancestry, I looked at an older post you did on your genealogy. I believe we might be related through the Wismer and Overholt line. I am also a descendant of Jacob Godshalk b.1666 in Goch Germany. My dna results are on Ancestry. I have read and enjoyed your posts for many years and I love quilts! Email is dawganova51@gmail.com

Pam Richardson said...

Jeanie, once again I am late to read and comment. I love this post and seeing all of your amazing quilts with stories. I also have a vast collection of quilts mainly from my beloved mother and also my grandmothers. I purchased a beautiful wedding ring quilt from an Amish lady on a trip to PA in 1987. Thanks for sharing your wonderful collection!

Lowcarb team member said...

Goodness, you certainly have a lot of quilts and they are all beautiful. I think it's lovely that each one has a happy memory for you.

Happy July Wishes.

All the best Jan

Victoria Zigler said...

I'd love a proper quilt.

Debra@CommonGround said...

oh how I love quilts and so admire and respect those who have the patience and talent to create them. Thanks so much for coming by and linking up to All About Home, Jeanie!

Katie Mansfield said...

You have a fantastic collection. I'd offer the quilt to Doug, if he doesn't want it then it was meant to be yours so that it is appreciated. You have a wonderful collection. You should try quilting. It is really fun and satisfying.

French Ethereal said...

Quilts have such stories to tell, don't they?! I love all of the quilts and the stories you've shared. I'm glad you enjoyed the feature at Share Your Style #309 this week. :) As our children were growing up, we picked up some of those store quilts, too. They were great, kept everyone stay warm, and lasted quite a long time! Charles sent us a navy and white double wedding ring quilt from the Philippines as he passed through on his way to the Gulf War back in 1991. My mother-in-law hand-stitched another wedding ring quilt for us from leftover fabric from the bridesmaids' dresses she made for our wedding.

Good stories and you are lucky to have Rick around! He has a good eye for fine quilts.

Hugs,
Barb :)

Anonymous said...

Loved this post. Quite a quilting culture in my small town, it appears. Two stores devoted to the materials, classes etc.
Love Cath in Australia.

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