1/23/12

The Past Becomes the Future

When I was expecting my first child, Erik, my mother gave me a stack of embroidered muslin squares that she'd held onto for decades.  She embroidered them when she was a teenager.  She would have looked like this then.  This is her high school graduation picture. 

She was 17 when she graduated from high school.  The family story is that when her older brother (my Uncle Willard) started school, she wanted to go too.  At age 4, and without telling anyone, she got on her pony and rode to school to be with him.  The school sent her home because she was too young to start.  The next day, the same thing happened, and the school relented and let her stay.  That's how she ended up graduating a year younger than her peers.  But I digress . . . again.  (If you could peer into my brain, each thought would have a spider web radiating out from the center, indicating how tangential I tend to be.)

In any case, the stack of embroidered squares she gave me were all different Mother Goose nursery rhyme characters.  There were 27 in all, plus two blank muslin squares.  I'll never know what she had in mind for them when she started what had to have been a long project.  At some point, she put them away never to be seen again until she handed them to me shortly before Erik's birth.  I was thrilled to get them.

It was an interesting glimpse into her past that I'd not known before.  My mother was a wonderful seamstress.  Her mother was a fabulous quilter.  In fact, her mother did all sorts of needlework, but I'd never seen my mother do anything but garment-sewing.  It's funny how these little things we don't know about our parents can be so fascinating.

So, while I hadn't started quilting yet (and wouldn't for a long, long time), I had made comforters out of flat sheets.  Immediately, I got it into my head to make a little comforter out of these embroidered blocks.  I sewed them together 5 blocks wide and 5 blocks long.  I used the extra two embroidered blocks and the two blanks to make a pillow.  I made a quilt sandwich using two layers of batting so that it was nice and warm, and a solid turquoise blue for the backing.  It would be a long time before I would make my first quilt binding, and so I used double fold seam binding that I bought at JoAnn to bind my little comforter, and I tied it with blue variegated knit cro sheen crochet thread.


There was a time when newspapers published applique patterns, quilt patterns, and embroidery patterns.  I tried to find some information about it on the internet, and the only thing I could find that was particularly relevant was this article about an exhibit currently under way at the LaConner Quilt & Textile Museum in LaConner, Washington.  When I realized this exhibit was going on right now, I got excited until I realized it was a full day's drive away.  Bummer.  I have an idea that these designs were probably published in the newspaper that my mother's family read.






I'm somewhat in awe of her impeccable embroidery now that I've been doing so much embroidery myself.  It looks as if these were done with perle cotton thread, which I've never used.  (I might have to start.)

So what does this have to do with anything?  Well, this little baby comforter has been stored away in a cedar chest for years.  My two sons outgrew it long ago, and I put it away and forgot about it.  Then recently when I was putting away some items I inherited from my aunt, I found it again.  As I looked at it, I got the idea to take it apart and make a real quilt out of it.  I'd like to put sashing between the blocks, give it some new, better quality batting, quilt it, and give it a proper binding.  I've just been waiting for the right time to come along.  The right time is defined as:  when my first grandchild is conceived.

Well.  I haven't received any word that my first grandchild has been conceived.  But it's no secret to anyone that I keep hoping, hoping, hoping.  If hoping can make it happen, then it will happen, because I've hoped really hard.  Then last night I got the strongest urging to take it out and get started on it.  This morning, I ripped out the first side of the binding.


I've been known to have a sixth sense about things like this.  It would be wonderful if my sixth sense has kicked in just now.  I'm marking the date on my calendar, just . . . in . . . case.  And in the meantime, remaking this quilt will give me something to do while I'm hoping.

January 5, 2016 Addendum: There still are no grandchildren. There probably won't be, and that's just fine with this mother. My two sons bring me joy beyond imagining, and what more could anyone want in life? You can find followups to this post at this link. You can see the finished quilt right here.

21 comments from clever and witty friends:

WoolenSails said...

You are brave, I would be afraid to touch it, lol.
Such a wonderful memory to have of your mom.

Debbie

Rosetta said...

Sei bravissima complimenti
Mandi

Kate said...

What a delightful story! This will be the most perfect gift for that first grandchild. Have fun and good luck.

Stray Stitches (Linda G) said...

What wonderful memories are wrapped up in that comforter. It will be even more special when you are able to pass it on to that long hoped for grandchild :)

Kathleen at Rose Prairie said...

That is a special gift for your grandchild (I believe in six sense)
And to have such a story. Now a suggestion is write the story and put it on a label for the quilt. I've seen labels like that and that were also very pretty too. I'll be waiting for your announcement.

Becky~ said...

Oh I loved this.How lucky you are.They are just adorable.You and me both waiting patiently for a first Grandchild.I think you will be the first Grandma.LOL, my girls are to busy with vacations and jobs and houses for any grandkids yet lol.

Diane Wild said...

What a project, It's going to be so much fun to see how this will be transformed. Go, Girl.

Loretta said...

I love this...what fond memories of your mom and a beautiful story! Much success on this project! Hugs

make.share.give said...

These blocks are just precious! and such a sweet story. I'm hoping for wonderful news SOON right with you.

Kate said...

What a wonderful story and precious heirloom blocks. Sounds like a great way to update and share what your sons had.

Kathy said...

I agree that it is a great story and how lucky you are to have something that your mother made by hand. I am anxious to see your completed project too

Sally James said...

I loved reading your story. Can't wait to see the finished quilt. Hope to hear some good news soon :)

Denise :) said...

What a wonderful heirloom and what a TERRIFIC idea for converting it into a true quilt!! And I hope your sixth sense proves true!! :)

Snoodles said...

Oh, I'm in the same boat...hoping and hoping! I will be so thrilled for you if your sixth sense is correct! The squares are so special - her embroidery is wonderful! Have fun re-making that sweet family treasure! :)

Sandi P said...

What a special treasure, and here's hoping that 6th sense has kicked in. My friends all tell me that being a grandma is wonderful, but I'm not there quite yet either. I know you will keep us posted on any developments.

rubyslipperz said...

It's amazing how we can feel the life of someone we love thru the things that they've made and maybe left behind. This is such a great treasure for you have in your possession. And the memories that bring sweetness to the brain...comforting.

How your thoughts go off in "tangents"...O...how I know what you mean. I can be talking, writing and all of a sudden...I've lost even the bread crumbs to get back to my original thought! =)

hugZ,
annie
anniesrubyslipperz.com

My Sister Made Me Do It said...

My Grandmother taught my sister and me to embroider....I remember getting those little patterns and ironing them on muslin to make pillowcases or tea towels.....what sweet memories and what a sweet keepsake from your mother.....

Sand and Sunshine said...

What a great story, great blocks with a great future. ;-)

KatieQ said...

Thanks for sharing the history of your nursery rhyme project. I'll keep my fingers crossed that your instincts are right and that you will soon have a sweet baby to snuggle in this precious heirloom. Keep us updated with your progress.

Jennifer Ofenstein said...

I love that you're doing this. I rescued a Sunbonnet Sue quilt my mom and it has been such a treasure for my family to have!

Valerie Reynolds said...

OHMY GOSH....what a treasure this is Barbara! Do ya think nursery rhymes have been forgotten my this new generation...so much technology ect. Anddd....have your sons had any children since this post??