Thursday, 26 September 2013 03:10

Quilted Memories

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family storytelling hand sewn quilt legacy traditionThere is a shop that I have visited on occasion that is primarily a quilt shop, but the fabrics are so fun and work for so many other projects that I have gone there when I needed that special something for sewing.  I'm not a quilter, but I've always admired the quilts they have ondisplay; how perfectly matched and color coordinated they are.  And the back room that houses the big machine quilter is always overflowing with quilts of every size and color and pattern is such a feast for the eyes.  I have been lucky enough to be the recipient of quilts as gifts from family members with the talent for piecing and matching fabric.  But there is one quilt that I have that I prize above all the others, and funnily enough, I've never even used it.



Prized because of who made it and how it was made.  Never used because it is old.  Exactly how old I didn't discover until just this last week.  But it wasn't always held in such high esteem.  In fact, until I needed something out of my storage bins, I had forgotten it was even there.  Prior to it's illustrious home in an 18 gallon Rubbermaid tote, it lived a quiet life in my cedar chest. It has been a part of my memory for as far back as I can go.  But, as it often happens with things that are simply just there, I didn't think anything about it or its origins.

So, when it was rediscovered the other day, I called my mom and asked what the deal was with this quilt that still smelled of cedar, even though it has been comfortably living in Rubbermaid for at least 5 years now.  She asked me if I remembered the time when she washed one that was like it, and I said, yes.  I clearly remember.  I don't remember why it needed laundering, probably to get out the smell from being kept in my cedar chest, but this quilt of mine had a few sisters, and when my mother put one in our washing machine to clean it she never dreamed that all that would come back out would be soggy clumps of real cotton and bits of shredded fabric.  I think she cried.  When she told me the reason was because it had been hand-sewn by her mother's sister, my great-great-aunt, I sort of understood.  When she further made the distinction between hand-quilted and hand-sewn, I realized what an amazing gift I had been given, and how terribly ungrateful I was keeping it trapped in Rubbermaid!  Yet, at the same time, I was glad I had kept it safe.

family storytelling hand sewn quilt legacy traditionMy great-great-aunt was called Mama Josie, short for Josephine, and my mother's mother was named after her.  She was a resourceful woman, and even though she was born before the Great Depression, quilting wasn't just a hobby, it was a necessity.  These quilts were patched together from leftover clothing and scrap material, they aren't anything like the perfectly color coordinated specimens at the quilt shop.  They are better.  Poly-cotton fiberfill had yet to be invented, so real cotton batting makes up the insides.  And being stitched together by hand, since having a luxury item like an electric Singer sewing machine was unheard of, they are oh, so fragile.  So, rather than the impersonal  stitches of an industrial machine quilter, there are thousands of individual characters in my quilt.  I like to imagine her staying up late at night to work on it, or visiting with friends as they helped work on it in a big frame.  I wonder about the things she liked  and what she did and whether or not I'm anything like her.  Maybe.

My mother still has two of her treasures, and I have one, and even though I still won't use it, I've decided it needs to come out of storage.  Because to have a quilt that's 100 years old is kind of a big deal to me, and, even more importantly, I want to make sure my kids know who Mama Josie was.  I want them to see her quilt and be reminded that they belong to a family, that they are not lost or alone even if they may sometimes feel that way in this great big world.  Because, hopefuuly, by knowing her, and others who have come before them, maybe, just maybe, they'll come to understand who they are.

What is your most cherished posession and why?  How did you acquire it?

Last modified on Monday, 07 October 2013 11:30
Shantel Parks

Shantel's love of story began in her childhood with fairy tales. As a wife of 13 years and a mother of 4, she gets a daily sampling of the many genre's of story, including (but not at all limited to) - humor, alternate history, dramatic interpretations, tall tales, tragedy, and a smattering of anecdotes based on true stories. A sometimes blogger, a frequent do-it-yourselfer, and always fond of Cadbury Mini Eggs, Shantel can be found, most days, going 5 different directions, but usually ending up in her favorite place - at home.

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