Quilt Rehab

This post is NOT about some Quiltaholics Anonymous program. No, this is about rehab for down-on-their-luck quilts. In particular, some ugly ducklings that surfaced when we moved this fall. I am a bit ashamed to admit that we used these old raggedy quilts that belonged to my other half to wrap furniture.

I admire lovely antique quilts, but these were humble utility quilts, they were not beautiful to begin with, and they had seen better days.

After the move was over, I asked DH what to do with them. He was willing to get rid of them, and I almost did… but just couldn’t bring myself to toss them. Could someone squeeze a bit more utility out of them? Nothing to lose in trying.

First step, into the wash. They emerged bright, fresh, and soft. Two out of three were actually in acceptable condition, no repairs needed. They will be donated to a local shelter, just in time for the long New England winter ahead.

The third – that’s where the real story lies. Here it is:

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You have noticed by now that these quilts are very similar. String-pieced by machine on a muslin foundation, tied, and two out of three, scrappy. All made by the same woman, my DH’s late grandmother, Molly Pack, back in the 60’s and 70’s. She would ask her grandkids to pick a favorite color, and that would form the diamonds in their quilt. He recalled driving his matchbox cars on the lines of this quilt, which was on his bed throughout his childhood.

As he talked about his grandma, I began to feel differently about these humble bits of family history – and so did he. For as long as he could recall, Molly had no use of one arm, due to an accident with a wringer washing machine when she was a young mother with 11 kids. Maybe string-piecing and tying were her favorite methods, but more likely, they were the only way she was able to make these quilts. You just can’t keep a determined quilter down!

And the fabric choices? He remembers going with her to buy fabric-by-the-pound. Scrap quilting in its truest sense! She took care in arranging her strips more or less symmetrically across each block though. He pointed out a few special fabrics, including the blue and white print that was also the curtains in his room.

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How about these groovy paisleys? I’d love to have seen her scrap stash!

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The edges of this quilt were badly damaged from years of use, and appeared to have been repaired at least once before. In order for it to survive further handling, they had to get a trim and a new binding. And in Molly’s honor, I went to my scrap bin to choose fabrics that looked “right” on this now special quilt. Funny how knowing the backstory turned this ugly duckling into something … more.

We are going to keep this one after all, Molly – your grandson wanted you to know.

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