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Quilted Memories

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Image Courtesy of Pixabay

When I was growing up, handmade quilts were a staple in every household. They were made from scraps of fabric, intertwined with tradition and legacy. Almost every bride received a wedding ring or double wedding ring quilt if she had family or close community that quilted.

Quilts were ‘pieced’ from scrap fabric. Pieces were cut by hand and painstakingly sewn together. The quilt top would then be prepared with a layer of some type of fill and backed usually with a solid color fabric. Once the three components were assembled, the quilts were often taken to a quilting bee which was simple a gathering of women who would hand stitch the quilt together.

The top, fill and back would be stretched tight over a quilting frame with the decorative side facing up. This allowed access to both sides of the quilt and also allowed multiple people (almost always women) access to the quilt. Working together like this meant the quilting process went much faster. It was definitely a community effort.

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Andre Natta, Gee’s Bend quilting bee, CC BY 2.0

Old quilting frames were often four pieces of 2×4 connected and resting on top of saw horses. The quilt would be fastened to the frame using a “C” clamp. I have heard of quilting frames suspended from the ceiling, but I have never seen one. As time progressed and fewer women quilted, the frames became smaller so they took up less space.  Convenient, yes, but this also meant less of the quilt was exposed, so fewer women could work on the quilt at the same time. (Many quilts are machine quilted these days).

When I was newly married, my grandmother was making a quilt for my cousin. My cousin purchased all new fabric in bright new colors for my grandmother to use. I was spending the week with my grandparents so I asked my grandmother if she would make me a quilt. She replied “Absolutely not.” I was shocked. She then told me she felt I was capable of making my own.

My grandmother tossed me a bag of fabric scraps and showed me how to cut a pattern for a ‘gentleman’s bow” quilt. Cutting the pieces by hand took a great deal of time. I wrote in this post how my grandfather helped me cut a few pieces in his wood shop. I had the beginnings of a very nice quilt top when I left my grandmother’s. Then I let life get in the way. Somewhere along the way, my bag containing my quilt top and pieces disappeared.

So why am I writing about quilts? This morning I woke up under the weight of an old, almost threadbare quilt. This particular quilt is a tacked quilt. Instead of being quilted in tiny stitches, it is ‘tacked’ in squares just enough to secure all the pieces together. This quilt has a special place in my heart which I will write about at a later date.

This morning I woke thinking about the heaviness of the quilt, remembering how we slept in houses with no heat at night. The weight of the quilts were always comforting and kept us warm even during harsh winter nights. I will always prefer the heavy weight of blankets and cover over me while sleeping.

You can now purchase ‘weighted blankets’ on Amazon designed to do this very thing – make the sleeper feel secure. It is said to help alleviate anxiety and help relieve restless leg syndrome. Some are filled with glass or poly beads which some consumers have had spill out into their bed. I think I will stick to the warmth and security of my old heavy country fashioned quilt.