Friday, November 13, 2015

The Quilt Shelf

The top shelf of my closet is where the quilts live.

I am not from a quilting family. My father's mother would make us comforters, as she called them, material patchworked together and then tied with many knotted strings rather than quilted. Often we would recognize material from a dress she'd made for us. She always made the same style, a drop-waisted short-sleeved dress with an inverted pleat in the front and a zipper in the back, in colorful cotton prints. I have to admit I did not like those dresses; the fit was usually not quite right and the style certainly wasn't "in". I can't remember how many of these dresses she made, but it wasn't many and they were passed down from me to my sisters as we grew. I can't remember how many comforters she made either, but those seemed to arrive pretty much every year.

Grandma didn't make this comfort, but it's a favoriteof mine,
found for $5.00 in someone's basement sale.
Those comforters were the extent of quilting in our family, as far as I know. I tried it once myself with woefully sad results because I didn't take the time or patience needed to do it right. Recently when I found myself saying that I wished I had learned to quilt, I had a new thought: one person cannot do everything and do it right. There are things I can do and do a pretty good job; there are other things that I should just leave to others to do, and admire and support their efforts.

So all of my quilts are ones I have found along the way at antique shops and yard sales and so on. I love each and every one of them, even the ones with worn edges and faded patches. I often think about the hands that made them, what kind of house it might have been and what the women would have looked like. Their work survives and continues to keep us warm.

These old quilts are a lot like the stories I tell. Most of the are old and worn, passed down from someone else, sometimes a stranger and sometimes a family member. Some are ancient traditional tales rubbed smooth from many tellings over many years. All of them are well-loved, and all of them are valuable for the warmth, laughter, history, and love they carry.

When I tell stories, I often cover a table with one of my old quilts. Most often it's the yellow double wedding ring one because to me that pattern is also much like stories--interlocking, weaving a pattern, one story leading to another.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Quinn said...

Funny coincidence: off and on all day I've been wondering how to SELL a handmade patchwork quilt! It has no sentimental significance to me; it was made by a quilters' group at a distant relative's church in the early 1970s. It was given to my parents and lived on an unused guest bed at their house until a couple of years ago, when the house was sold and a truckload of stuff ended up in my tiny house (you can imagine what my house looks like now; I'm giving away furniture so I can walk through the rooms!). This quilt is in near-perfect condition and must have taken that group of women hundreds of hours to make, but I simply have no place or use for it. Usually I donate items to the Salvation Army or the Hospice Shop, but this just seems too valuable to discard that way.
Sorry - writing a novel here! I was just so surprised to see Quilts as your topic today, when it's exactly what I've been pondering!

Granny Sue said...

Ooooo, post pic on your blog! I bet you'll get a buyer :) I might buy it myself!

You are wise to look at it through reasonable eyes--it has no personal meaning for you, your house is small so you keep what is valuable or gives you joy. I've done a purge like that a few times, but it seems the older we get, the more stuff attaches to us.


I did come from a family of quilters but I don't quilt. I can sew a bit but just never was interested. I too love quilts and have a few. Mine are on bed. I gave each of our girls one that their grandmother made and then a few other assorted one I'd collected over the years. R's aunt Ruth made quilts and I bought one for $300. She said to tell me what I thought it was worth and I knew the hrs and hard work she'd put into it. Plus it meant a lot to my husband to have one of her quilts. It's a beautiful red star that takes up most of the queen size quilt. Every stitch by hand. I believe she used a quilting frame. However quilts and quilting is as much in my blood as the mountains and hill, valley and dells of West Virginia, my home state. Thanks for writing this lovely piece.

Granny Sue said...

Barbara, I am sure the quilt (which sounds like a Lone Star pattern) was worth every penny and more, a real family heirloom.

janet smart said...

I love quilts, too. I come from a family of quilt makers. I have a few family quilts, but I also have many I have picked up at yard sales and thrift stores. I have made a few myself, along with comforters. There's just something about quilts that tugs at my heart. I want to wrap myself up in them and listen to the stories they have to tell.

Granny Sue said...

Well said, Janet. That's how I feel too, and why I love quilts--especially the old ones.

Quinn said...

Thanks for your suggestion about the quilt, Sue - I missed it earlier! Sometimes I get the "follow-up" type emails on blog comments and sometimes I don't, even when I remember to check the box, and on lots of different of the mysteries of blogging, I guess. Anyway, thanks for the encouragement. Maybe I'll wash that quilt and see how it looks. It's been setting for a loooong time.

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