Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mary Edith's Special Quilt

Why is it that everyone cuts binding on the crosswise grain? Why do we use a double binding when a single will do? Binding would last so much longer if it was cut on the bias instead. It would look better too.

In July I inherited a dresden plate quilt made in 1939. The binding was a mess, there had to be at least five different bindings, widths and repairs. I'd have to re-bind it when I returned home! Dresden plates have never been a personal favorite of mine, yet this quilt was really special. My great grandmother made this quilt for her only granddaughter, Mary Edith, on the occasion of her high school graduation.

Basically it is a hand appliqued pattern in soft green and pink. It is unusual in that the dresden plates were not appliqued onto blocks. They were appliqued onto one large piece of pieced green fabric. She then applied a border of pink, yellow and green. I'm sure she had some church ladies quilt it for her.

My aunt, the recipient of the quilt, took the quilt with her to Purdue and later to Hanover College where she graduated. After the Second World War, she married a navigator and they moved to Georgia to start their life together. There she lived in several homes, and raised 2 children. This special quilt kept her warm during that busy and challenging time in her life. She became a widow at a fairly young age and returned to school to become an RN. She met a doctor at the local hospital who was widowed about the same time. They eventually married, and had an interesting life, traveling across the world  together for over 20 years. My aunt found herself a widow again, and moved north of Atlanta to be with her son. Nearing the end of her life, this quilt was still keeping her warm and connected to her family; until her death last summer.

Her son and wife gave me this precious quilt following my aunt's funeral. It is a lightweight quilt, perfect for a southerner to have owned, it was well worn and long loved. As I was making the long 2 day drive home to Wisconsin following the funeral, I planned on removing the tattered and frayed binding and then attach a new pink bias binding in its place.

The most recent repair, a narrow strip whip stitched into place.

A few months have gone by now. I have slept under this quilt many times. I've written and published a booklet on bias binding and how important it is, to have a beautiful bias on the edge of your quilt.  But I've changed my mind about my aunt's quilt. I'm leaving the old binding with its many repairs and short replacement strips. All the pieces of binding were repaired and added by the women in my family; my great grandmother, my great aunt, my grandmother and my aunt. I can picture in my mind one or two of these women, sitting on the porch at the family cottage, going around the edges of the quilt, stitching the edges to make it last "just a little longer." My family history is contained in this binding of pink scraps. I will love the quilt and its crazy binding with its many widths and repairs, and it will continue to keep me warm for many years to come.


Jane Moxey said...

Wow! What a fascinating story about this family quilt. Congratulations on the new book!

Nellie's Needles said...

This quilt's history is precious. It's wonderful that you are honoring it.

I have a "Grandmother's Flower Garden" quilt that was pieced by my great-grandmother. She used clothing worn out by my mother, grandmother, and several aunts. My mother had inherited the top and it was her learning piece for hand-quilting at the age of 50. She gave it to me on my 55th birthday. I, too, feel that connection to women in my family. Oh, and I would never have chosen a quilt with that particular pattern, but I love this quilt.

annieQ said...

Thank you everyone for sharing your family quilt stories with me. We are rich with a patched up heritage!

Karen said...

What a wonderful story. I don't have any quilters in my family. You are blessed to have this quilt and enjoy it for many more years.