Thursday, September 29, 2011

Grandma's Blues, Part I

My grandmothers were the old-fashioned variety. They were plumpish and had wrinkles, glasses, white tinted-blue hair, and soft bosoms, yet the angry blue goose represents them well, for they were strong women in their own ways and worked diligently to protect their families. One was smiling and gentle and the other was formidable--and I loved them both. Everyone should have one of each in my opinion, because we need those examples. Neither grandmother jogged, swam laps or worked out, they just gardened. And their lovely gardens linger in my memory. The gentle one went to teachers’ school and loved to read. The formidable one obtained a degree in music, then became a high school music teacher in a northern town until she hooked the most eligible bachelor around, the doctor. 
My formidable grandmother is the first person on the right in the third row. Certainly, the majority of readers cannot possibly be interested by old family photos, however the 1915 University of Minnesota graduating class in music is an interesting group. In fact, it's a noteworthy group because women students outnumber the men at a time when few had the opportunity of attending universities at all. The problem with history remains that women are generally forgotten and a major problem for women is that they do not have a history. As a researcher in cultural and women's history, I delight in bringing forward the forgotten achievements of women--our grandmothers--to demonstrate that women must not be described as victims, but as participants in our mutual history. If I had the know-how, I would insert a "one-hundred-gun-salute" here.
         Back to "Grandma's Blues". My formidable grandmother did sophisticated embroidery and apparently had some notions of how to quilt because her daughter made a crib quilt for the new baby sister (my mother).
I particularly like the cat with his strange tail and perplexed expression.
My formidable grandmother also possessed a quilt of fine fabrics made by her mother, however, this is the extent of my grandmother's quilting history, as far as I know. Apparently, she wasn't a quilter.
This log cabin shimmers because of the fancy fabrics, however, they are disintegrating. It was draped on my grandmother's baby grand piano.

On the other hand, my gentle grandmother was a quilter who sewed only by hand. My mother kept several quilts carefully to pass on. Here is one of "Grandma's Blues," a nine-patch probably made in the 1930s or 1940s:
A lovely purple quilt with a basket design:
This bear paw quilt was made in the 1930s for my grandmother's youngest sister who taught primary school. 
Age has not faded the bright yellow.
It contains some cute fabrics of the period. 
also inherited several worn out quilts that nobody wanted (fortunately for me), which I am slowly mending and restoring. Here is a second "Grandma's Blues."

This much-used quilt still has my name tag on it, so I apparently took it to summer camp when I was eight years old. Of course the most wear has occurred at the top where there is the most pull. I have begun repairing it (upper left) by inserting a similar used fabric and then doing needle-turn appliqué to sew the frayed fabric onto the inserted fabric; I call it "sewing the holes." Truth to tell, my mother asked my grandmother if certain quilts were for everyday use or should be preserved and my grandmother told her to use them. On the other hand, one specific quilt was to be carefully preserved and passed on as it contains blocks from my great-great-grandmother.

My grandmother took the time to quilt it with precision.
This quilt will probably never be used as the fabrics bleed, however, it will be appreciated for the memory of grandmothers that it provides.

27 comments:

Nifty Quilts said...

What a beautiful post!! So many exquisite treasures! You are so fortunate to have these quilts, and to have a mother who took care of them. Your repair on the blue one only adds more generational history. I will come back to this post again and again. Thank you!!

Sarah said...

What a wonderful quilty legacy! Especially love the 30's bright colours and such pretty little prints :-)

American Homestead said...

Beautiful...
You are very lucky to have the quilts and the memories.
Ellen

Ms. ∆×∆p×≥h/4π said...

Everything I wrote in the last comment still true--but the name is wrong dear multicolored--so sorry---the rain has soaked my brain and I just wrote to Deanna, so made that error. Forgive me, I so enjoyed your post and the trip through personal history.

Ullan tilkut said...

Hi! Greetings from Finland! I love the quilts! Thank you for showing them! It's so nice to find other quilters from other countries.

Els said...

Ha, it's like walking in a museum!
Wonderful stories behing all this !
(love the old photo)

Els said...

Sorry: "behind"

Carole said...

You have a wonderful quilting history. Thank you for sharing it with us.

deanna7trees said...

oh how lucky you are to have all these treasures and best of all to know so much of the story behind them. i love that you are mending to make them whole again. thanks for sharing. and i just love looking at old photos even if i don't know who they are.

bj said...

Thank you for sharing these precious quilts! I have several quilts made by my grandmother in the 1920's. She sewed quilts for boarding houses in the area, and many travelers warmed themselves under her hand stitched quilts. They are all treasures. It's wonderful that you are repairing and restoring your quilts.

Connie Rose said...

Wow, Nadia, what a wonderful collection of family history!

Muddling Through said...

Oh, what a wonderful heritage you have the evidence of there!!! They are each beautiful. I, too, had strong grandmothers, and I am forever thankful for them both.

CREATIVE MIND said...

such a lovely memories & the quilts are really amazing! it seems like prints not handmade !!
such a sweet grandma you have! stay blessed :)

Anonymous said...

Nice. Great narrative, great images, the feeling comes through strongly. B Hull

Radka said...

Very interesting post! Thank you for sharing :)
Great quilts, real treasures, like the memories :)

handstories said...

a treasure trove! with great stories to boot. oh, those grandmas...they are all such characters, aren't they?

aracne said...

I love what you wrote about your grandmothers, the persons they were and the sewing skills they had.
You are honouring them and their works. I like that you are transmitting their memory in this way.

quilteuseforever said...

Great post again Nadia, I agree with you that many women of the past were stronger than we think. Life was hard and challenging. It is still so but in other ways.
What a pleasure to admire your heirloom ! It is great that you take the time to mend the blue quilt "fatigué".
A bientôt,
Katell

Sherri ~ daintytime said...

I had a formidable grandmother as well. I like that descriptive. Both my grandmother's had a hand in teaching me to sew. It apparently skipped a generation because my mother couldn't sew a stitch - but my mother was bold with color and home decorating and I have her to credit for my color sense.

Morna said...

What a gorgeous log cabin quilt!

Rachelle @ Adventures in Creating said...

You are so fortunate to have these wonderful treasures in your family. They are truly works of art.

The Idaho Beauty said...

What treasures, particularly that last one. Quilted a bit unusually I think.

Salsy said...

Lovely work. LOve the cat and "Grandma's Blues". What a lot of work by these women, and great that someone appreciates and treasures it.

Teodo said...

Great story for a great post.
Thanks you. ciao Linda

Anne said...

the last 2 articles were very interesting; I like the cushions, and the transmisson with the grand-mother. A story of women......2 great posts: thanks!

bwilliams said...

What a wonderful heritage you have from the women in your family. Too often the contribution of the mothers and grandmothers gets dusted over in favor of the more "exciting" lives their male counterparts lived. In most cases it was the women of the family who held the home front together while the men were away. I also had a strong grandmother who, unfortunately, I know only through stories told by older family members. She produced her own wool and linen yarns in addition to knitting, sewing and quilting. But, my favorite anecdote refers to her milking the family cow...barefoot...regardless of the weather! Thank you for sharing with us. What a treasure.

isathreadsoflife said...

Beautiful and precious collection of family quilts. I can sense your love for both of your grandmothers through your words. You are lucky to have inherited such treasures and be able to mend them. None of my grandmothers were quilters but one of them, Germaine, knitted a lot and well. My mother loved sewing curtains, cushions, tablecloths, etc. and I still have some of the fabrics she gave me years ago. She may have known that I would love quilting ? Thanks for this beautiful post.