I organized the upstairs linen closet this week which is only remarkable in that our closets are never very organized (or don't stay that way for long.) This job was long overdue. When I would open the door, pillows would tumble out. You get the picture.
I took everything out and started folding the quilts, tucking them neatly back into the closet.
All of a sudden, I was not alone. I was upstairs with three loving spirits: Ed's grandmother, Mama Fitts (Eliza Bristow Fitts); my paternal grandmother, Ree (Marie Hettiger Carpenter) and my maternal grandmother, Grandmommy (Mary Blacklock Rinehart), for these were the ladies who stitched together all the quilts that our family has found comfort in over the years. Forts have been built; children have been tucked in; fragile items have been wrapped; tables have been set; picnics have been laid; and Christmas trees have been skirted. If only quilts could talk...
|Every one of Mama Fitts' quilts was used as a tablecloth for this engagement party.|
|Sister Sherry's birthday party, featuring Grandmommy's star quilts|
|Four little beds: all ready for grandchildren|
Each treasured quilt is a work of art. I only wish the artist had stitched her monogram in the bottom corner. But even without initials, I can tell whose hand stitched each quilt.
Mama Fitts' quilts are all tiny postage-stamp coverlets, patchworked together from outgrown or outworn clothes. Ed can even point to a tiny blue patch made from a shirt he wore as a young child.
Many of Mama Fitts' quilts we inherited from Ed's mom; they are the ones Ed remembers growing up with. They are well loved (i.e. well worn) and in need of some repair. Others came from his Aunt Gladys, who never had children; those quilts are in much better condition.
The quilts made by Ree are all appliquéd, most with orange and yellows poppies on a white background, with scolloped edges. She made quilts for each of her nine grandchildren, a gift to each upon their marriage. I remember having pretty intense conversations with her about when I might get my quilt if I chose to never marry. We settled on age 35.
|Ree (with Grandpoppy)|
Grandmommy's quilts are geometric and of traditional design: mostly stars and rings. But my favorite is one she made for me when I was born: two lambs appliquéd in the softest cotton and palest of blue, pink and yellow fabrics, now faded nearly to white from 65 years of use. If I look hard enough, I can just make out my name: Debra Lynn Carpenter and my birth weight: seven pounds, eleven ounces, embroidered on the border.
|Grandmommy (with me)|
These quilters were born more than a century ago; none of their children or grandchildren showed any interest in the craft of quilting. But I'm encouraged. Daughter Mary has taught herself how to quilt and has made a quilt for her nephew, Norbert. Amy, Sister Sherry's daughter, is an accomplished seamstress and perhaps quilting will be in her future. And Sister Julie's twin daughters, Katie and Molly, are both amazing and accomplished artists that love hand crafting.
|Norbert, happily playing on Mary's quilt|
So, who knows, perhaps quilts will once again be produced by the women (or men) of our family. I hope so.
On a related note...
Last spring Ed and I traveled to Paducah, KY and while there, spent an afternoon admiring the quilts at the National Quilt Museum. If you are ever in the area, you should go.