Thursday, May 14, 2009

Grandma's (and my) Vintage Quilt Top

My grandma, Ruth June Parker, was born in 1899. She is about 6 years old in this very sweet picture! When she was only 10 or 12 years old her mother passed away and she took on the responsibility of helping to raise her younger siblings. Life was hard for her in many ways after that point.This photo shows grandma with her only daughter (my mom) in about 1935. My mom remembers that she pieced and tied many quilts during these years. She had to make do with very little as so many did during that time.I couldn't resist including this fun picture of my mom and I when I was about 8 years old. As I have been working on family pictures, I have wanted to make some type of special collage, frame or something with these two mother daughter pictures.

As I said earlier, my grandma was always one to make do with what she had. I want to give you an example of that before I show the quilt top I am showcasing today. This took place during the years that I was a teenager so my grandma was in her early 70's. She found a warehouse/factory in Seattle where nylon quilted jackets were made. Someone there would save average size scraps in large cardboard barrels and then give them to her. There were many bright colors. She would make small kid size jackets or snow pants for the little ones in the family or other families in need. She would then cut the scraps too small for making clothes and put them together in quilts. Not cotton, but quilted nylon. They were actually quite colorful and fun. One of my daughters was the recipient of one that had solid sage green color squares with squares of various flowers. The backing was a lovely floral flannel. It was very pretty and so warm! As I look back now, I think the best thing about all of it was that these were all made from scraps that would have been thrown away. I'll try to find a picture of one of those quilts.
Now on to the vintage quilt...sorry it took so long! After my grandmother became very sick and was not able to do her sewing we came across this unfinished quilt top. It was without the borders. About 3 years ago, I decided to add borders--it is still not quilted. I contemplated taking off these borders and re-doing it with some better vintage reproductions but I am thinking that I am going to just go with what I have done!
I love the reds, yellows and blues together. In this next shot you can see the borders up a bit closer. Any feedback, my quilting blog friends? ....should I change them out?

I remember Nanette discussing vintage quilts and telling how when quilters in years past ran out of a fabric they were using, they would go to their stash and find something close that would work and then make do. That is evidenced in this quilt top made by my grandma with many shades of yellow.
Another close-up!

And one more....

I think this quilt top looks so beautiful all laid out and photographed. Makes me motivated to get it quilted right away! Thanks for letting me share my beautiful treasure! Another day I will tell you how my grandma was actually the first one to teach me to sew! That is a very special memory to me!

Have a wonderful weekend and may you have some bright, fun, and creative moments!


  1. What a wonderful quilt and thank you for sharing such a rich family history. Quilts always have such a story behind them.
    My vote for the borders would be to have a reproduction type fabric to match. But the best person to ask would be Nanette who is very experienced in this area. I'm sure if you e-mailed her, she would be happy to reply.

  2. I LOVE the stories behind quilts! And I love the different yellows your grandmother adds so much character to your quilt! I agree with Nedra...Nanette would give the best advice on the border fabric!

  3. The fabrics are fantastic in the quilt top. I supersized the pictures to get a look at the vintage jewels. The family photographs are just as lovely. Aren't you glad you have all this! I think you should first please yourself with the quilt top. If you are happy with how it is then by all means move forward and get that thing quilted. If you are wavering then put some other fabrics next to the squares and see what you feel. For me, I would put vintage fabric on the borders but that is just me. And I have a collection to choose from. I'm not a purist by any means though. And women put fabric in scrap quilts that spanned many many years. I would follow your heart here. It is your quilt and a family treasure. Whatever you decide is the right step. Thanks for sharing this lovely story and quilt with us.

  4. Hi Dotti,
    I love your family story and such great photos. The quilt and the fabrics are beautiful. The borders you have are a perfect example of your grandmother...using what you have and it looks great. If you want to make the whole quilt have a vintage feel, I would add reproduction fabric instead. I'm not much help there, sorry. No matter what you do, document that on a label on the back of the quilt: who made the center and that you added the borders. Good luck with it and I can't wait to see it quilted!
    ps I see you've master the link button!!!

  5. The wonderful stories behind the quilts make them come alive!! Your quilt is precious and gorgeous!! I love how our ancestors "made do" with what they seems the newer generations "throw it out". Thanks for sharing your story!

  6. what a wonderful quilt and family history... I don't know much about vintage quilts so can't help you with borders...

    I hopped over from Mels Place..