Sunday, January 11, 2015


most quilters can trace their love affair with quilting back to a specific quilt or quilter that enthralled them, grabbed their notice, and got them interested in this hobby or that they have an emotional attachment to. my roots in quilting go back to my childhood, to one particularly lovely pink patchwork star.

my mom made some whole-cloth, tied quilts at various points in my childhood, and i even helped her tie a few of them, but she never did any patchwork quilting. so the first patchwork quilt i ever met and loved was the pink texas lonestar quilt that resided on a bed at my grandmother margaret's house in my aunt catherine's former room. when i lived with my grandparents for 6 months as a 13 year old, this became my room and quilt for a while. i always loved seeing it when i visited. as a new bride in 1995, i was staying with my grandmother and noticed the pink lonestar was no longer on the bed in my room. she told me that, sadly, catherine had tried to machine wash the quilt and it now needed repairs, so she had removed it from the bed. at some point, catherine took the quilt in hopes of finding someone to fix it. i was quite disappointed. although i was not yet a quilter, i loved the quilt and had a deep love of family heirlooms. the pink lonestar would have been in my top 3 choices of items i would like to inherit.

last year i contacted aunt catherine and asked her if she could send me a photograph of the quilt because i wanted to try to recreate it. she said she'd hunt it down and send me a picture. the photo never came. however, when i realized our summer travels would be taking us close to my aunt, i asked her to get it out so i could photograph it myself when i visited her. i'll admit i was thinking of tactful ways i could convince her to let me take it home with me so i could get it repaired myself. and maybe keep it. there was no need for me to be devious. when i got to catherine's house and asked her about the quilt, she said, "it's in the front hall. i'm giving it to you." i honestly started crying on the spot. this quilt is the only heirloom quilt in my family that i know of or have ever seen. and now it's mine through my aunt's generosity.

  grandma margaret told me this was a wedding present from her aunts. as a war bride in 1945, i can only imagine what went into the making of this by her aunt(s). i've always thought she said her mother's sister(s) made it, but now i'm not so sure of my memory. anyway, this quilt that was about 40 years old when i first met it is now approximately 70 years old. and it's rather delicate. there is evident fading going on, but it's still in quite lovely condition.

 i don't remember this, but when aunt catherine gave it to me, the quilt came with two pieces: a quilt and a pillow sham. i don't know what else you call the sham exactly because it's not a pillowcase type sham like we have today. it's more of a half-quilt panel. but i'm pretty sure it's designed to cover the pillows. the cool thing about the sham is that it's not as worn or faded as the quilt, so you can see the original colors better. the fact that it's not faded and that i seem to remember using the quilt to cover the pillows when i used to sleep with this quilt, leads me to believe it wasn't on the bed. even the sham has some fading in the brightest pinks, which just don't seem to be colorfast.

here i laid the sham over the quilt to show the difference in the colors. there are anywhere from  4 to 7, possibly more, pinks used, but it's just too hard to say with the fading.

 even with all the fading and spots of damage, this is a stunning quilt. when i laid it out on my bed to photograph today, my three year old excitedly exclaimed, "it's PERfeh!" the sixteen year old was also quite taken aback by it's beauty when she walked in the room.

in light of what we consider "modern" vs. "traditional" in today's quilting world, and now that i know a little of quilt history, this quilt strikes me as not typical for the 1940's or at least not what most people would think of as typical. it is not a scrap quilt, apparently made from fabrics chosen specifically for this quilt rather than pieced together from reclaimed items. also, it's not made from prints - it's all solids. how very modern! and the bright, all-pink palette is definitely modern.

i think it just goes to show that the lines between modern and traditional are a lot blurrier than we think, that traditional quilters generations ago made some very "modern" pieces just like quilters of today can choose to make some very "traditional" quilts. really, even though there are trends in each age of quilting, there have always been quilters who quilt outside the lines of what is most common for their era. and maybe there is just a lot more variety in taste and style all along than we realized.

 at my grandmother's house, this quilt lay on a full-sized, brass framed bed. today i photographed it on my king-sized, aluminum framed bed. as much as i'd like it to stay on my bed, it's not suitable for everyday use anymore. but i think i just found the perfect place for it. more on that later because it's kind of a big deal and is going to take some work before i can get it in place.

peeking through the rips and fraying, the piecing seems to be done by machine, but the quilting was definitely done by hand. on the star, the quilting is stitch-in-the-ditch around the diamonds. these lines then continue into the negative space, where they are crossed by another set of lines to create more diamonds, with the four corner squares all being quilted in the same radiating direction. the four triangles formed between the points on each side of the quilt also were in a pattern, but after studying it i realized just one of them is not going in the same direction as the others. a little oops when in the making? probably. but it's not noticeable in the least unless you are trying to pick out the pattern.

 the backing is a solid pink, pieced together by at least two of the pinks from the front. i think the batting must be some kind of polyester or polyester blend because it's rather full and slightly puffy, and has kept it's shape all these years. it's not creased like a cotton batted quilt would be after so many years in folded storage. also, it's not extremely dense like a wool batting would be. i had no idea they had polyester batting in the 1940's but i guess they must have.  seeing how well the batting has worn over the years has given me pause to reconsider my own personal preference for 100% cotton battings.

the binding is the lightest pink of those used in the quilt. on close examination, i can tell it was machine sewn down and then turned to the back and attached by hand like we would do today.

however, it's not stitched on with a blind hem stitch but tacked down by small, rather uneven stitches every 1/4" or so. this imperfect detail, along with several other imperfect factors in the making of this quilt, remind me that quilts don't have to be perfectly crafted to be beautiful or loved, that the mistakes or small cover-ups for shortages will fade into the larger picture of the finished quilt. this gives me not only comfort about all the flaws in my own quilts, but makes me love this quilt even more.

i don't know how long i'll be able to preserve this particular quilt in good condition, but i'm immensely grateful to have it since it's the only quilt from my family's tree i've ever seen.
truly, it is a priceless heirloom.

i hope i can make enough quilts that my great grandchildren can all say they own or at least have seen something from their family's quilting roots. i hope i inspire lots more quilters and quilts to grow on that family tree in the years to come. maybe this little lady will make some of her own someday, like the great-great-great grandmother she was named for.

but that is another family tree quilting roots story for another day.


  1. What a fantastic quilt, and a fantastic story! It's wonderful to have such a piece of your family history. When you mentioned that the quilting in one corner is different, I had to scroll back up to look at the first picture to see the whole quilt. It's amazing how that corner just blends in with the rest of the quilt even though it is done slightly differently. Enjoy!

  2. Lovely, lovely quilt, so glad you shared its story!

    As the design, a single motif, and the colors were deliberate choices, so I believe is the quilting. As you see modern clues in design and fabric, don't dismiss the quilting as an error.

    It's quite a stunning example of modern quilting. Your Great Aunts' needlework was ahead of their time!

  3. Beautiful story about a beautiful quilt. Interesting to read you think the patting is polyester. I'm so pleased it has come to live at your home.
    There are no quilts or quilters anywhere in my family but several other handcrafted/embroidered heirloom items are to be found.

  4. what a beautiful story and a stunning quilt. I am so glad that you get to love and treasure it.

  5. Oh, Hydee!!!
    Wow! I know you are so delighted to have this treasured heirloom (and how fortunate that it is such a pretty one!!!)

  6. So lovely and very modern for the times! I'm glad you got to take the quilt home with you and can't wait to see where you display it. Congrats on your treasured heirloom!

  7. Such a wonderful and treasured heirloom! I'm sad to say that I am truly jealous of your Aunt's attitude. After my grandmother passed, my aunt went through the house and claimed a lot of the larger heirlooms and then sold a good portion of them without telling my mother. I'm so grateful that this quilt is a treasured heirloom for your entire family.


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