Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Under Grandma's Bed

That's a provocative title, isn't it now? *grin*

Let me tell you a little story. Who knows, by the time I finish, it might be a rather long story. We shall see...

On Sunday afternoon, I drove over to Hillsboro to visit my 94-year-old grandma. It is my custom to go about once a week; usually DH goes along with me, and occasionally one of the kids, if any of them happen to be around. This time, however, I was all by myself. Grandma still lives on her own, in her own house, and is in such great shape for all of her years. My mother, and an aunt and uncle check on her daily, and another aunt and uncle visit her every couple of weeks. Right now an aunt from Kansas is visiting, so there's lots of family around and she gets regular attention.

Grandma is the one I credit for fostering my love of quilting. For as long as I can remember, a quilting frame was set up in her house, with a quilt stretched across it. I don't remember having a particular interest, though, until I was in college. At that time, I came to have a couple of miscellaneous boxes from my mother, one of which contained quilt squares that she (Mom) had appliqued. I conspired with Grandma to finish a quilt of those squares -- I sewed the top together, and Grandma quilted it, and I gave it to Mom as a gift. There were at least 2 sets of squares -- the other set was embroidered.

So with that, my interest in quilting began, and Grandma and I have become so close as a result. I always had someone I could consult with questions and she always had someone who would "oooh and ahhh" over her many creations. We went fabric shopping together; she always shook her head in a "tsk-tsk" sort of way when I would buy more (and more and more) fabric. We perused books together. Whenever I got a new book or fabric, I always brought it with me to show her. I frequently bought 2 or 3 fat quarters - usually blue - to give her as little surprises. She went through a couple of rough patches with her health and the fabric seemed to bring her some cheer.

All the quilts Grandma ever made were handmade, from cutting out with scissors and templates to piecing to quilting. Nothing was done by machine with the possible exception of attaching a binding. (Generally, though, she cut her backs large enough to be folded around to the front and tacked down for binding.)

But, I digress! While visiting on Sunday, I asked Grandma if I could look in her box of quilting templates for some that I might borrow to use on the handquilting projects I currently have in progress. She keeps her templates in a large 'under-the-bed' storage box in her spare bedroom. This room also houses what remains of her quilting material in the closet, under the bed and in a few drawers of a desk. The templates were in a box under the bed along with 3 other boxes.

I suppose you can't guess what I brought home with me, can you?? Yes, Grandma had me pull out all four boxes from under the bed with instructions to just take them with me. First, though, we went through them to see what all was stored there.

Now, I will share with you the contents. It's mostly uninteresting, but a couple of things make it extraordinary.

First, the small square-ish box contained all embroidery-related materials, including a variety of DMC thread, quite a lot of stamped fabrics, and a few patterns.

Some of the pieces had been started on. This is a really long piece of fabric that looks like it might be meant for going on a bed.

A goodly sum of DMC - by the box even. The original owner of this stash was planning on making a bedspread with that pretty blue and teal. I found the pattern and the fabric, so someone could pick right up on this and finish it off, if they were so inclined. (At present, I am not.)

Here is a sampling of the patterns. They look in pretty decent shape for being stored away for so long. I did not get a clear date off of anything in this box, but I did find a rather telling price sticker on one item.

The funny thing about all of this? Grandma had no idea where that stuff had come from, who gave it to her or when she got it. As we were putting it all away, I noticed a mailing label on the box. I showed it to her. Ah-ha! Suddenly, a light bulb flickered on and she completely remembered its origin. Back when she volunteered at the local hospital, a woman who worked with her there had given it to her. The name on the mailing label was all she needed to recall the details. See? I told you she was in good shape!

Okay, the other boxes... one was full of batting pieces; ends that get cut off when they are too big for the quilt and so forth.

Grandma has always been meticulously organized. She has a spot for everything, and everything is always in its spot. This next picture will very definitely prove my point.

This box contains all solid fabrics. I'm thinking what a cool 9-patch quilt I could make with this stuff!! Look there in the corner of the box - a box within a box. That's how Grandma worked on projects. She'd get her pieces set up in a sturdy little box, and work out of it - it was portable this way.

The cut-out pieces on the right are for Sunbonnet Sue blocks; Grandma made lots of these over the years.

There are over 50 dresses cut out here. Look at the wonderful variety. All cut out one at a time by Grandma.

Finally, the box I was originally interested in - the one with the quilting templates.

Jackpot!! Most are the plastic templates readily available today. However, buried down in this box is an antique.
This template is a homemade one out of stiff cardboard, made by my great-grandmother, Grandma's mother.

Grandma estimated for me that this was made in the mid-to-late 1930s. She based this on the births of her first 3 children, and recalling times when they were babies and she would quilt with her mother. Can you see how worn the edges of the cardboard are? I know Grandma used this template on many a border; I suspect I even have a few quilts on which this border template was used.

Well, there you have it, my "little story." I knew it would turn out to be a lot longer than I thought it would.

Happy Quilting, Friends!


  1. What a wonderful story, Jayne. It sure brought a lump to my throat. You are so fortunate to have your mother and your grandmother, still close by you. I loved reading this article.

  2. Thanks, Marlise. It's an easy story to tell. And, yes, I know how fortunate I am. I thank God for being so blessed, for Grandma and Mom are true blessings. Thanks for the comment!

  3. What an absolute treasure! How very lucky you are to have these pieces of the past from your beloved grandmother. blessings, marlene

  4. What a lovely link to your past that is. Both you and your grandmother are so lucky to have each other and this hobby in common.


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