Monday, January 18, 2010

Imogene's quilt stories

This time last year I interviewed the grandmother of my daughter’s friend. She mentioned a family quilt several times over the holidays so we decided to document that quilt.

What I gained was much more than the story of that quilt (which we'll save for another day). Imogene was the classic comforting grandma, with a sweet smile and twinkling eyes. She fed us cinnamon rolls. We got out the quilt and then the stories rolled out.

Imogene remembered the dust storms in the 30s, when they put sheets on the windows to keep the dust out. She said it was awful. She wondered if there was dust in the quilt from then.

And she told me fun things about herself. “I like things,” Imogene said. (I do too.)

Imogene remembered their house had a full basement and her mother had a frame set up there for quilting. She remembers always liking crafts (“I like to be busy”). And she remembered her mother saying, “That’s enough for today” when they were quilting together. Imogene wonders if that was a polite way of stopping when her mother noticed poor stitching on her part.

She recalled her mother making crazy quilts for daily use. One was made in corduroy. She said her mother Birdie would piece scraps into blocks, “She saved every little scrap.”

Birdie made lots of quilts, pieced by hand. For the “ever-day ones”, she used flannels. They made dresses with matching aprons from feedsacks, also underpants and dishtowels. “My mother made everything out of them.”

I took notes of our visit and gave a copy to Imogene. I know they made her happy, seeing her memories saved on paper for the future. And I gained so much too, getting to hear her quilt stories firsthand.

If you know someone who has a story to tell you, take the time to write it down. Imogene passed away last week (she was 89) and I am so glad we saved some of her stories that afternoon.


  1. The stories are what brought me into quilting. My grandmother would bring out my great grandmother's quilts and patiently tell me the family stories over and over. I never tired of hearing her and the quilts were a tangible connection. I could touch the fabrics she chose and run my fingers over her stitches and felt I knew her myself.

  2. How nice that you preserved Imogene's stories. The stories of the quilts are often very interesting- especially of some of the antique ones. I wish that some of my grandmother's quilts still existed but unfortunately they do not- I don't know if she quilted very much - she died before I was born. We did have one unfinished quilt but it disappeared from my mother's house. It was a dresden plate scrap quilt.
    I always enjoy coming to read about the quilts on your blog- You find the most interesting quilts and tell the most wonderful stories.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. wow, thanks for the nice comments. The stories are the best part, aren't they! Write down whatever you can about your quilting, someone will enjoy it someday. Last week at sewing my friend Georgann was stitching away and she said THIS TAKES SO LONG. and isn't that true, but it gives us time to think and regroup.....I would love to hear what my grandma would have grumbled as she stitched....