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!