Vintage

Published on January 2nd, 2009 | by Julie Finn

24

In My Mama’s House: Vintage Quilt Porn

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Nana's polyester nine-patchI don’t know about you, but Christmas week at my grandparents’ house isn’t exactly a hotbed of activity. Papa does get up at around 5 am, of course, so if I got up, too, I could hang out with him while he sits at the kitchen table and reads the newspaper and drinks coffee for three hours. Then we can move into the den and watch Fox News for a while. We could yell at the dog, watch through the front window to see what the neighbors are up to, and when the postal worker comes, well, we are going to hop up and get that mail RIGHT AWAY. We have to hurry, you know, because if we’re going to go to Western Sizzlin’ for dinner, we have to be there by 4:45 pm at the latest.

Yeah.

So you may not be surprised that while my Papa watches Fox News all day, I putter. This is where I found the million of Christmas cards from people we’re not even related to anymore and got permission to upcycle them into gift tags. One time I found a bunch of my Mama’s really old resin record albums and ripped them all to my computer. I dug around in the attic until I found all my old Strawberry Shortcake dolls and Transformers and He-Man guys (remember this dude? He’s my favorite).

And then, a couple of days ago, I found the quilts.

Sunnbonnet SueI knew that my grandmother had pieced the occasional quilt, and that when she pieced one she would give it to her mother to quilt, but nobody bothered to tell me that she did that because my Nana? Was a master quilter.

This Sunbonnet Sue is not quilted, of course–it’s tyed–but look at how perfect the applique is there, and that’s all hand-stitched! And don’t even get me started on the fabrics. My Nana had a really unfortunate love affair with polyester, and the quilts she made for me as a small child in the 1970s are both polyester nine-patches–you have to appreciate the skill and quality of workmanship, but the fabric and color choice? Rancid.

But these fabrics? 1950s florals. Ahhhhh.

 Friendship quiltThis is a friendship quilt. Twenty or so women contributed panels of this design, but in their own color choice, and embroidered their names in the middle of each panel. This panel was sewn by Nana herself, or Ethel Shepherd for those of you who didn’t grow up on her fried apple hand pies.

Friendship quilts were often made for a person for some particular occasion, and unfortunately Papa doesn’t remember what it would have been, but my Mama sewed her own panel on this quilt, too (maybe it was for the birth of her baby brother?), and this quilt obviously saw a LOT of love on Nana’s bed–the binding is worn off, the batting is rubbed clean through in several places, and there are a couple of stains on the front.

I have much more to say on this later, but do you know where I found these beautiful quilts, friends?

Stuffed in a closet. Stuffed in a garbage bag. With MOTHBALLS.

What vintage craft treasures do you treasure?



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About the Author

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now. Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.



  • http://craftingagreenworld.com Autumn

    That brings back memories! My mother used to work on these huge quilts with Great-Gramma in her basement. I distinctly remember Log Cabins and Sunbonnet Sue’s. They would stretch them out full length as they worked around the edges. About the only toy I had there was roller skates, and I would “squat skate” all day underneath those colorful canopies, doing my best to dodge pins and needles. I also had my giant She-ra castle at her house, so when they were stitching in the middle parts I just played with that ;)

  • http://craftingagreenworld.com Autumn

    That brings back memories! My mother used to work on these huge quilts with Great-Gramma in her basement. I distinctly remember Log Cabins and Sunbonnet Sue’s. They would stretch them out full length as they worked around the edges. About the only toy I had there was roller skates, and I would “squat skate” all day underneath those colorful canopies, doing my best to dodge pins and needles. I also had my giant She-ra castle at her house, so when they were stitching in the middle parts I just played with that ;)

  • http://craftingagreenworld.com Autumn

    That brings back memories! My mother used to work on these huge quilts with Great-Gramma in her basement. I distinctly remember Log Cabins and Sunbonnet Sue’s. They would stretch them out full length as they worked around the edges. About the only toy I had there was roller skates, and I would “squat skate” all day underneath those colorful canopies, doing my best to dodge pins and needles. I also had my giant She-ra castle at her house, so when they were stitching in the middle parts I just played with that ;)

  • julie himmelwright

    these are great! old quilts and afghans are becoming rather hip these days…

    I’d love to see a list of places online to find some good old ones.

    thanks for the post!

  • julie himmelwright

    these are great! old quilts and afghans are becoming rather hip these days…

    I’d love to see a list of places online to find some good old ones.

    thanks for the post!

  • julie himmelwright

    these are great! old quilts and afghans are becoming rather hip these days…

    I’d love to see a list of places online to find some good old ones.

    thanks for the post!

  • http://www.myrecycledbags.com RecycleCindy

    I enjoyed reading your story about going to the Grandparent’s home for the holidays. I loved seeing those old quilts and the stories behind each one were interesting. Thanks for sharing them.

  • http://www.myrecycledbags.com RecycleCindy

    I enjoyed reading your story about going to the Grandparent’s home for the holidays. I loved seeing those old quilts and the stories behind each one were interesting. Thanks for sharing them.

  • http://www.myrecycledbags.com RecycleCindy

    I enjoyed reading your story about going to the Grandparent’s home for the holidays. I loved seeing those old quilts and the stories behind each one were interesting. Thanks for sharing them.

  • http://www.squaresville.etsy.com allison

    Ha ha! I get up super early, drink coffee for hours, peer out the window at the neighbors, and get the mail as soon as it arrives!
    But then again, I’m on (or, was on) my winter vacation from school. I do the same thing all summmer. Teacher schedules rock!

  • http://www.squaresville.etsy.com allison

    Ha ha! I get up super early, drink coffee for hours, peer out the window at the neighbors, and get the mail as soon as it arrives!
    But then again, I’m on (or, was on) my winter vacation from school. I do the same thing all summmer. Teacher schedules rock!

  • http://www.squaresville.etsy.com allison

    Ha ha! I get up super early, drink coffee for hours, peer out the window at the neighbors, and get the mail as soon as it arrives!
    But then again, I’m on (or, was on) my winter vacation from school. I do the same thing all summmer. Teacher schedules rock!

  • http://www.craftknife.blogspot.com Julie Finn

    Well, as long as you don’t yell at your dog yet, I think you’re okay…:)

    I think making a list of vintage quilt sites online is an awesome idea! I was thinking about writing about how to take care of them today (Y’all, they were in MOTHBALLS!), but I’ll do some research on that for my post just after.

  • http://www.craftknife.blogspot.com Julie Finn

    Well, as long as you don’t yell at your dog yet, I think you’re okay…:)

    I think making a list of vintage quilt sites online is an awesome idea! I was thinking about writing about how to take care of them today (Y’all, they were in MOTHBALLS!), but I’ll do some research on that for my post just after.

  • http://www.craftknife.blogspot.com Julie Finn

    Well, as long as you don’t yell at your dog yet, I think you’re okay…:)

    I think making a list of vintage quilt sites online is an awesome idea! I was thinking about writing about how to take care of them today (Y’all, they were in MOTHBALLS!), but I’ll do some research on that for my post just after.

  • moonbeam

    too funny! this sounds exactly like my grandparent’s daily agenda, but it was CNN for a while, then they eventually just moved to watching the fireplace all day everyday during the winter and the squirrels in the summer.
    both of my grandparents passed away between thanksgiving and christmas this year, so we went through the whole house and found some true treasures (some things may be considered trash by some people, but to us… TREASURES! and some good laughs). i found my old dolls, care bears, my little ponies, She-Ra!, glo-worms, etc in the back of a closet (i doubt most 28 year old women could get as excited as i was over kids’ toys). and we found afghans & quilts all over the house that were made by my mom, aunts, grandmother, and great-grandmothers. most of them were in really poor condition, but everyone got one… mismatched scrap polyester holey family heirlooms.

  • moonbeam

    too funny! this sounds exactly like my grandparent’s daily agenda, but it was CNN for a while, then they eventually just moved to watching the fireplace all day everyday during the winter and the squirrels in the summer.
    both of my grandparents passed away between thanksgiving and christmas this year, so we went through the whole house and found some true treasures (some things may be considered trash by some people, but to us… TREASURES! and some good laughs). i found my old dolls, care bears, my little ponies, She-Ra!, glo-worms, etc in the back of a closet (i doubt most 28 year old women could get as excited as i was over kids’ toys). and we found afghans & quilts all over the house that were made by my mom, aunts, grandmother, and great-grandmothers. most of them were in really poor condition, but everyone got one… mismatched scrap polyester holey family heirlooms.

  • moonbeam

    too funny! this sounds exactly like my grandparent’s daily agenda, but it was CNN for a while, then they eventually just moved to watching the fireplace all day everyday during the winter and the squirrels in the summer.
    both of my grandparents passed away between thanksgiving and christmas this year, so we went through the whole house and found some true treasures (some things may be considered trash by some people, but to us… TREASURES! and some good laughs). i found my old dolls, care bears, my little ponies, She-Ra!, glo-worms, etc in the back of a closet (i doubt most 28 year old women could get as excited as i was over kids’ toys). and we found afghans & quilts all over the house that were made by my mom, aunts, grandmother, and great-grandmothers. most of them were in really poor condition, but everyone got one… mismatched scrap polyester holey family heirlooms.

  • moonbeam

    looking closer at that patchwork quilt picture at the top of the page…… were you at my grandparent’s house taking pictures??

  • moonbeam

    looking closer at that patchwork quilt picture at the top of the page…… were you at my grandparent’s house taking pictures??

  • moonbeam

    looking closer at that patchwork quilt picture at the top of the page…… were you at my grandparent’s house taking pictures??

  • http://www.craftknife.blogspot.com Julie Finn

    I had ALL those toys as a kid. I’m still thinking about strangling my mother because in various garage sales, she somehow managed to sell all my Sweet Valley High books and all my Choose Your Own Adventure books.

    I’ve been gradually re-collecting Choose Your Own Adventure books over the years from garage sales and thrift stores, but now that I have two little girls of my own…I might pass on the Sweet Valley High.

  • http://www.craftknife.blogspot.com Julie Finn

    I had ALL those toys as a kid. I’m still thinking about strangling my mother because in various garage sales, she somehow managed to sell all my Sweet Valley High books and all my Choose Your Own Adventure books.

    I’ve been gradually re-collecting Choose Your Own Adventure books over the years from garage sales and thrift stores, but now that I have two little girls of my own…I might pass on the Sweet Valley High.

  • http://www.craftknife.blogspot.com Julie Finn

    I had ALL those toys as a kid. I’m still thinking about strangling my mother because in various garage sales, she somehow managed to sell all my Sweet Valley High books and all my Choose Your Own Adventure books.

    I’ve been gradually re-collecting Choose Your Own Adventure books over the years from garage sales and thrift stores, but now that I have two little girls of my own…I might pass on the Sweet Valley High.

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