A Little Story…

I want to tell you a little story.

See this?

This is my quilt.

It’s also my cat –>

That’s Eowyn. You’ve met her before, but this story isn’t about her, she just happened to be on the bed and unwilling to move when I took the picture about the real star of this tale:

<– My quilt.

So, as I said, this is my quilt. My mother sewed it for me when I was little. I’m not sure exactly how young I was, but I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have it, so I’m going with very young. It’s a king-sized quilt and she sewed it out of squares of fabric she’d cut out of clothes (I assume it’s clothes people had grown out of). When you consider that I was born in 1976 and I’ve had this as long as I can remember, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear a lot of that fabric is polyester. There’s some cotton, some denim and even some fabric I’m not sure what it is, but there’s a whole lot of polyester. The backing was a flannel sheet, and there was loads of stuffing. My mom hand-tied that beast, at every point where the squares meet she pulled wool through and tied it.

My quilt is freaking heavy. It’s even heavier when you’re a kid, but I loved it then as I love it now. I would drag that thing across the lawn to lay it out for a picnic when we lived in the city, or drape it over chairs or tables to make the most secure fort you can imagine. When I’d have nightmares I would duck beneath it, growing sweatier by the moment but also safe, secure beneath its weight. When we moved to the country you might think I’d be smart enough to leave it indoors, but you’d be wrong. That quilt has been through fields and corrals, it has hosted tea parties and listened to whispered teenage secrets.

I know it like no other object in my life. I spent countless insomnia-filled nights counting the squares, playing with the wool ties or looking for a pattern in amongst the chaos. I know the texture of each block and I have favourites among them.

Sadly though, the quilt has seen better days.

It’s worn and strained. The backing sheet is threadbare beyond words, stained and tired. Polyester being nearly immortal those squares are fine up top, but the rest are giving up the fight. The batting is also a mess, spread bare in some places and clumped up in others. There are holes big enough to stick my fist (or my foot) though. The quilt has spent the last four years or so in my closet, waiting while I tried to figure out what to do with it, how to restore it, how to save it. Recently I was forced to admit that really, it’s time had come. There might be a way to painstakingly pull out all the damaged parts and add new ones in, but it’s beyond my skill or the time I have to offer to it. I could applique stuff on over the big holes and put a new back on it, but… welll, it wouldn’t be the same.

So I’m saying goodbye to my quilt. I pulled it out, I put it on my bed and we’ve been using it, sort of a ‘last hurrah’.

Then an interesting thing happened. Nothing that will preserve the quilt, but sweet and worth sharing.

Jo was trying to get some work done and Danica and I were baking together and being a bit noisy so he took his books into the bedroom. He’d been in there for a while when suddenly he popped his head around the corner into the kitchen and said, “Hey, Rhonda, did you know that my tartan is all over that quilt?”

Sure enough, the plaid blocks all over my quilt, the one my mom made for me over 30 years ago, is Jo’s family’s tartan.

Just one more reason my quilt rocks.

 

…maybe I should try to find time to save it after all.

 

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10 thoughts on “A Little Story…

  1. I am wondering if you can’t maybe even just make a wall hanging or a baby quilt out of the better parts of the quilt ? Just an idea that jumped into my head when I was reading this.

    • I was thinking of taking some parts out and framing them alongside a poem I’d write about the quilt… but the poem is shit. So now I’m thinking about scrapping the back and the stuffing and maybe doing the ‘applique over the big holes’ thing on the top and then re-finishing it. If I do, wanna help?

  2. I was doing a hanging for a church and they had a wonderful old sunbonnet sue quilt from the early 1930. They considered it scrap to throw out. I said that it might be worth using it as a backing with a sort of see through fabric to stabalize(sp?) it. They did it and it worked well. The front was a new hanging for the church and as it was carried down the aisle you could see the “Old quilt” that gave a unique history of the church. The people agreed that it was a heartwarming addition and were glad that they had not thrown away the quilt. This might work for you! I still have my first quilt, similar to the one your mother made. It is in horrid condition, again due to wear and love and pets! I have it stored away and maybe will do something with it eventually….. but for now it is safe where it is and when I pull it out and look at it it brings back so many fond memories! Good Luck!

    • It’s fantastic that you were able to restore and re-use the Sunbonnet Sue quilt. Adding it to the new quilt you made must have made it feel just that little bit more precious 🙂

      I’ve good news too, of a sort. I have a new plan on how to recover my quilt. I am going to get rid of the back and batting, applique over the big holes and then re-quilt it. Keep your fingers crossed for me, I may need it LOL

  3. Rhonda, My daughter Ramie sent me…. do you sew or quilt? I am of the old school of thought that much loved quilts like yours are worth saving. You could go a lot of different ways with this if you want to save it, and I think you should. If you don’t sew or quilt perhaps you can contact a local quilting group and hire someone to help you?
    Memories are hard to toss, ya know? As a quilter and a sewer, I can tell you of the thought, love, time and effort that goes into making a quilt like yours, and frankly it’s rather refreshing to see the effort that your mom put into making it being appreciated and treasured so far down the road from it’s creation.
    I shared a link to your story with a quilt art list I am on, asking others to come and make suggestions, but knowing more about your abilities would be helpful.

    • Hi Andee 🙂 I’m pleased to “meet” you. Raimie has mentioned you a time or two in the past. I friended you over on livejournal today too, I hope that’s okay 🙂

      I am a quilter (on and off) and I’m not too bad. I’ve got some pictures of my stuff over here–> http://www.jofigure.com/quilts/about-jofigure-mystery-quilts/some-of-my-quilty-schtuff (how’s that for a long URL).

      I’ve decided you’re right. I can’t just throw this quilt away, it’s meant too much to me in the past, means too much to me now. My new plan is to replace the batting and backing and applique some birds over the holes on the top. I need to do some research to make sure that putting cotton over the polyester isn’t going to be a huge mistake, but *fingers crossed* (I really don’t want to have to work with polyester LoL).

      Thank you again for popping by and for sharing my link with your quilting groups. I really do appreciate it and all the feedback and encouragement I’ve received so far 🙂

  4. Once upon a time, I was a museum curator. You have a couple of options here. Yes, you can cut it down….but, here’s some other things to think about.

    Back in the 19th and early 20th centuries, tied “quilts” (actually, when tied, they are comforters) would often be untied and new batting put in and re-tied. Using a modern batting which isn’t as likely to shift might be a good alternative for you.

    As far as the backing and the threadbare parts: There’s no sin in putting a new backing on and retying it….or just putting a new backing over the old and tieing it in a few spots so it doesn’t shift, hand stitching the edges to the quilt with a whip or invisible stitch.

    As far as the thread bare spots go, if you decide to cut it down, you can put some of the good squares from where you have cut it down and applique them over the top. Otherwise, appliqueing a square of illusion netting (bridal veil) over the top of it to hold the fibers together is one thing that conservators do. Otherwise, you can just applique a square of sympathetic (similar in print and fabric content) over the top. Fortunately, there’s a whole lot of fabric from the 1970s still around and quilters are often trying to get rid of it.

    HOWEVER…if you want to keep it “forever” you’re going to have to be careful on how you use it….i.e. washing in a washing machine isn’t the best idea….less washing is better than more, and if you’re going to use it on your bed and the kitties are going to take up residence, then I suggest putting a sheet over the top of it at least when you aren’t in the room so that they don’t snag/get oils and dander from their skin on it to make it need laundering more frequently.

    How to wash it? Make a screen by taking a length of fiberglass window screening sew bias tape over the edges so it isn’t scratchy. Put the screening in a bathtub or another container big enough to hold it and rinse thoroughly. Usually, we use Orvus which is a soap made for show horses…Pat the water through it…don’t wring, and don’t be too hard on it…you’re trying to keep those threadbare bits together.Lift up the quilt out of the tub WITH THE SCREEN. Fabric is at its weakest when it is wet. Put a sheet out on the lawn and put the quilt on top of it. Put another sheet over the top of that to keep bird droppings and critters off the top of the quilt….It takes a while but it will dry.

    This is probably more than you ever want to know…Ramie’s mom Andee posted this over on the Quiltart website….and I came over to give you my 2 cents worth.

    Good luck! Lisa

    • Hi Lisa!

      Wow, thank you for the information. Seriously, I truly appreciate it.

      My current plan is to replace the batting and backing and applique some birds over the holes in the front. I was sort of planning to use high-quality cotton for the applique rather than sympathetic fabric. I guess that would decrease whatever historical value it might have, but if I can pull it off I think it could look pretty awesome.

      I did make a new blog post about this in response to all the great feedback I’ve been getting and in it I mused that maybe the next time this quilt needed to be patched my daughter might do it, and then her children after her… I recognise that’s getting a wee bit ahead of myself, but it’s a fun thought isn’t it? Successive generations adding their own touch to a quilt over the years?

      It’s a thought that makes me smile, anyway 🙂

      Thank you again for stopping by and educating and encouraging me 🙂

      • What a treasure you have! If it were mine, I’d try laying a very sheer fabric, or fine netting over the top.
        That would trap all the fibers underneath so they couldn’t fray, and the batting wouldn’t come out. Then you could do some quilting over all, with perhaps
        invisible thread. That would preserve the whole thing and
        wouldn’t really be noticeable. Depending on how large it is perhaps you could then use it as a wall hanging, whioh would further reduce any wear and tear. I hope you can find a way nto save it for those further generations!
        Good luck.

  5. What a beautiful quilt! I think you should salvage it to continue to use it. Cover the back with new flannel and re-tie enough to hold it together.
    Why don’t you keep the spirit of the quilt and use some of your own old clothes for the new patches!
    Heather

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