Bits and Pieces That Make Up My History
This quilt top was a work in progress by my great grandmother, Granny's mom, who was called Big Mama by all the grands and great grands and great great grands. I've had this in storage for years upon years. Granny gave it to me shortly before Big Mama died, along with a bag full of quilt pieces that had been cut to finish off the quilt. During my recovery from an automobile accident, my soon to be ex- husband packed up my things and decided that the quilt pieces were trash and tossed them into a burn pile. I'm grateful that for whatever reason he saved this to pack up instead.
Truth time. I've never really looked closely at the quilt top until the day last month when I pulled it out of storage. My plan is to try to finish the quilt off, which will involve removing a few rows along two sides to make it look right, planning a bordering fabric and then quilting and binding. It should be about lap quilt size when finished. I'll save the spare pieces to use for something else. Perhaps incorporate into other pieces for family to have in the future. The very central squares are flannel, but the other materials I fancy were fabric from dresses and flour sack aprons that Big Mama made for herself. Some of my favorite of all materials is black with tiny little flowers sprinkled upon it and there are not one but two different pieces in this quilt which feature tiny rosebuds on a black background. I think the graphic print (which has a very late 50's, early 60's feel} and the pink polka dot fabrics are kind of retro cool looking, don't you?
The squares are far better matched than the photo shows. Each square relates to others color wise in some way. There's just one rogue patch, that big navy square there in the bottom right hand corner of the second photo. No clue why she used that piece there, none whatsoever. I'll leave it just because it is what makes that quilt a bit quirky and unique.
It was amazing to handle this piece and see the fine hand-stitching Big Mama used on each and every square. Some of the pieces of fabric that form squares were stitched together so they could be cut into a square shape. She must have been in her early 90s when she began this quilt. I suppose at that time she was too tired to use her old pedal Singer sewing machine (which I dearly hope to own someday, as it now sits in Mama's little front entry...). This piece work must have been to fill her time each day over the winter when gardening tasks were few. Like Granny, Big Mama was rather active, living alone, puttering about her house until she was well into her 90's.
(And yes, I have been mightily blessed. I knew it as a child growing up, knew it as a teen, knew it as a young adult, have known it all my gathering years, that I was a blessed girl to have such wonderful strong examples of elder women gathered about me, in the shape of two great grandmothers, two grandmothers, numerous great aunts and even a great great aunt tossed in for good measure for the majority of my early adult life, not to mention meeting a great great great aunt as a child!)
Big Mama was a well known seamstress, often taking in sewing while raising her family, as a means of earning cash or bartering her services for goods needed for the family. She also made her own and all of her family's clothing (one husband, six children and self). She continued to sew well into her '80s and very early '90s preferring a more old fashioned dress than most. I don't recall ever seeing Big Mama in a dress with short sleeves, always long sleeves with buttoned cuffs, and every dress had a collar as well. She preferred a rather severe style, cotton stockings, at home an apron covered her clothing.
Notice Big Mama has her hand at the back of her head? That gesture of scratching the back of her head is so familiar to me. I can't name the number of times over the years I watched her do that same thing as she thought out a problem or considered a reply. By the way this short hairstyle was necessary for ease of care, but for most of my life she had long hair which she wore pulled back in a bun. As a child it was my joy to have the task of brushing her long hair and to watch her twist it back into a bun when I was done.
The dress she has own in the photo were of her own making. You can see the buttoned cuffs, the buttoned up collar of her dress.
Mama Lee was my great great aunt, also a very good seamstress and needlewoman. She loved to crochet and knit and kept us well supplied with hats and slippers for winters. She also crocheted some of the beaded rings and necklaces that were so popular in the '70's. She was the Modern Millie to Big Mama who was very old fashioned in her ways.
I just thought it would be interesting to share the 'author' of the quilt top above, and to share some of my personal history as well. As I say, I was well and truly blessed with lots of elder relatives on both Mama's and Daddy's sides of the family. Big Mama and my paternal grandfather both made sure I knew their family history, so I have a strong sense of being well grounded in my family roots and that all important Southern necessity of knowing 'who my folks are.'
As for what I plan to do with the quilt top whether or not I ever manage to finish it, I think I'd like to pass it along to my oldest granddaughter, Josie (Amie's daughter) or perhaps her daughter if I am so blessed to see that generation come to life. I think it would be very fitting don't you?