Family History in a Quilt, c. 1980’s

When we had lots of family members descend for the Beach Weekend, we were dragging out bed linens from the closet to accommodate folks sleeping on the beds, couches and floors. I found this quilt my grandmother had made. Part of the crazy-quilt patches had come unsewn, so after everyone left, I took it to the sewing machine to mend and repair it as best I could.

I’d forgotten that my grandmother wrote on the back of it. She had a whole set of these little tubes of “embroidery paint”  similar to this modern-day product (click the link to see).  For a time period, she was very prolific with the embroidery paint, making pillow cases, sheets, all sorts of things. She had been in the habit of stamping a design or motif onto a piece of fabric, then embroidering (or drawing with the tube paint) over the stamped designs.

This is what she put on the back of this quilt:

Gran jenny
For John, made by Gran in 1985

Here, on the backing (which looks like it probably was an old sheet, so thin here it is almost transparent) you can see the underside of some heirloom quilt stitching, all hand-sewn. In the next photo, you can see the top side of the feather-stitching, probably done in a few strands of contrasting-color embroidery floss.

The quilt top itself is remarkable too.

Gran quilt jenny skip
double-knit patch quilt

It’s made of patches of double-knit fabric, which was an innovative fabric type for those of my grandmother’s era (she was born in 1906). See this article at Seamwork about the differences between the double knit fabrics available then vs. now.  John said, “I remember it [the quilt] was really scratchy, the sort of polyester material that leisure suits were made from.”  Hence, the soft cotton sheeting on the back of the quilt, which side would go next to the tender skin of a little 4 or 5 year-old great-grandchild.

I’d like to say that I matched the embroidery thread and repaired the blanket in the style and manner of the original–but for me to do that would involve quite a learning curve. I picked a decorative stitch on the sewing machine and put the pedal to the metal. For any curious posterity, it will show obvious mending by machine.

Meanwhile, how enlightening to have this information!

9 thoughts on “Family History in a Quilt, c. 1980’s”

  1. I have a beautiful quilt my husband’s grandmother made (intricate honeycomb) from bits of fabric she had used to make clothing with – but way back when clothing was made out of cotton. It would have meant so much to have the fabrics identified as to who wore it. I also had a trip down memory lane when you mentioned the tubes of fabric paint we had back in the late 50’s. My mom and I made a number of baby quilt tops (that she later used to make quilts for the grandchildren – I got one for my first child). We painted a little girl and boy motif – the girl wearing a bonnet (like Holly Hobby – way before Holly Hobby) and the boy a straw hat – very pioneer. I remember the tubes had tiny little rollers at the tip. Thanks for the memories.

    1. My gran also made quilts out of old clothing–some of the fabrics I remember, as I think I had an outfit made by her, when I was about eight or ten years old, out of some of the quilted fabric pieces. She used to keep her old fabric remnants in the same old barrels I have now in my sewing room! This double-knit quilt’s sheet backing in its transparent condition–she was taught not to throw anything away no matter how threadbare, it could always be useful for something else, with a little elbow grease applied! They would cut a blanket down the middle and re-seam the ends, making the threadbare center now on either side, to re-distribute the signs of wear. Or use an old threadbare blanket as batting in between the top and back of a newer quilt. Wasting resources was something you just didn’t do, in their time…

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