I must admit on the outset that I love quilts. I don't know if that is a pre-requisite for farm life, but I do think it adds to the experience.
Quilts are story-tellers that keep you warm at night. There is something about seeing a quilt, knowing that someone spent time creating the pattern, choosing the fabric, the necessary dimensions of the quilt, not to mention the time set aside to actually make the quilt.
I love the feeling of snuggling down under a quilt on a cold night, knowing that someone I love and loves me, gave me the ultimate gift when they made a quilt for me. Sure, a blanket from Walmart, JCPenneys, or wherever can keep you warm, but the quilt seems to keep me warmer still.
My great-grandmother, Frieda, was a quilter. She was born in 1884 in Germany, the fifth of what would be eleven children. Great-Grandma could quilt, knit, crochet, and tat. Frieda made braided rugs with four and five sections to braid, she was quite a force to be reckoned with so I am told. My oldest quilt was made by her. It is a Crazy Quilt, one made of the bits and pieces of fabric left over from other quilts. This quilt has seven different finishing stitches that were used for the piece. I loved this quilt from the first time I saw it. When my grandmother died last year, I was allowed to take the quilt. It wasn't just a memory of my grandmother, it was more. It was a memory of all that side of the family represents. The hard work, the tenacity to survive, the ability to do without and not whine about it, these are character traits I see in this quilt. Sure it was made to keep someone warm, but it is still a piece of art.
Another quilt I have was probably made by Great- Grandma also, it is a summer quilt, lighter weight than others I have. The pattern is Ohio Stars, made with flour sacks or seed sacks. It is evident that the quilt was hand-stitched, the stitch work itself has slight length imperfections that would not be made by machine.
Years ago, when my grandmother was showing me the various quilts she had kept, I saw a green cross-stitched quilt, the pattern is of flower baskets and quite impressive. After Gram died, my father opened a trunk and found this quilt with a note attached. Gram had written "To be given to Gretchen. Made by Grandma Olive." I was blown away. I don't know if I had asked her if I could have it some day, I don't remember. But Gram did.
When I was engaged my best friend, Dawn, asked me for a list of people who were important to me. I quickly wrote down whomever came to mind and went about the various wedding tasks I needed to accomplish. At my reception I was presented with an oversized present and told to open in front of everyone. As the paper fell away I saw the most beautiful quilt. Dawn had patterned it after the Friendship Quilts and had given squares to the people on my list. Each square had been designed by someone so I would remember them after I moved away. My dear grandparents, my cousins, close friends, my brother, parents, all of them had designed a square. I was overwhelmed.
During Christmas of 2008 my mother-in-law called me into a bedroom and opened her mother's hope chest. Inside was a quilt made with seed sacks, the pattern was a variation of the Split Nine Patch pattern. The quilt had either been made by her mother or her grandmother. My mother-in-law knew I loved "old stuff" and thought I might want to have it. MIGHT want to have it???? I was deeply touched by her generosity. I told her she didn't have to give me anything else for Christmas. The quilt is presently on my bed.
My subscription to Woman's Day Magazine came today and one of the cover articles was "Decorating With Quilts." I immediately opened the magazine to find creative ideas for displaying the quilts. Now, in all honesty, I will not be using any of the quilts I mentioned for these ideas. But the article ended with Quilt Care recommendations, I will be using them.
As the weather here continues to turn cold I will snuggle under my quilt and think of the women who wanted their loved ones to stay warm and say thank you to them. I still feel their love.