Wednesday, June 17, 2009

From Small Hands

In my parent's garage, tucked in between two pieces of cardboard, lay a treasure waiting to be rescued. I did just that yesterday. A little "Happy Birthday to me!" gift, I went into the garage to claim this little quilt. My dad does not know it's missing. I'll just leave that bit quiet for now.

For years this quilt hung on the wall in my parent's living room in Florida. At least until the fore that roared through their house in 1981. The quilt survived, but the glass that protected it did not.

After the fire, it leaned against the wall, a reminder of the things that were lost or damaged. It never hung on the wall again. Until yesterday.

The tiny quilt was made by a brother and sister, ages eight and five, somewhere between the years of 1835 and 1840. Someone mounted it onto a board and then in the frame. It had been in that state ever since we received it. I know it is not the best way to keep a quilt, but I am sure that the person who did so was ignorant of the damage that could be done in their attempts at preservation. Live and learn.

There are moth holes and tears and even pieces that are missing altogether. But, it is still beautiful. The workmanship of those two children done, I am sure, in the meager light of an oil lamp or maybe just the sunlight that came through a window, is unbelievably well-done.
I can imagine their mother saving scraps of cloth from sewing projects or Dad's shirts to give to her children to practice with. I can see her guiding them as they took small, tentative stitches to bring those small pieces together, piecing together when needed to make sure they had just the right size, watching as the pieces became a whole.
This quilt is now hanging in my living room. I will, one day, have it looked at by a conservator to see if it can be rescued. If not, it will remain as it is, a testament to the tiny hands that made it, the talent they developed and the mother who inspired them.
I am going to make this quilt, a modern version of this family heirloom. I am taking careful measurements, and I will be making the same mistakes found in the original. No surprise there, making mistakes must be a family trait.
I think I need to have birthdays more often, it's the only way I can get away with digging for treasure in the garage!


Happy Cottage Quilter said...

How amazing. What a treasure!

Terrie Sandelin said...

What a beautiful quilt! It's really a treasure. And what fun to make one for yourself. Will you show pictures of the process?

Erzebat said...

wow! what a beautiful treasure you found! no one around here has a garage like that (sigh) I was given a quilt top similar to the fabric in yours. I plan on finishing it and having it as a show piece in the darkest corner of my living room. best I can tell, there are fabrics from 1890 to 1950s in it. I am having to replace the sashing that literally shredded when I placed the top in a tub of cold water. when I am done, there will be 3 centurys of fabric in it. I will be hand piecing and hand quilting it.
(mauh) Liz

Betty said...

The little quilt is delightful; but, I think even more so is the idea you are going to reproduce it, little faults and all. What a great tribute and so nice that you are able to do it. Enjoy!

Rebecca P said...

What a treasure! It is such a beautiful quilt.

Nanette Merrill and daughters said...

Well good for you. I'm glad you rescued it. Just think someone might have thrown it away! How sad that would be. My inlaws were in Ukraine on a mission for 3 years quite a few years ago. When we went to their house to wash sheets and make their bed and get it ready for them to return I saw several quilts in plastic bags in the laundry room on a shelf. One was marked "camping quilt" In it was a quilt from my FIL's grandmother. It was made in the 1800s some time. Not sure when. My husband said "Yeah, we used that for camping. We'd sleep on the grass with it and everything". I was slightly horrified! I still have it. I told them at one point but I wish I had rescued a few others there too. My SIL has her eye on them now. Yes. I'm greedy!

Lynne L. said...

For starters happy birthday. I'm glad you rescued the quilt and not someone who has no clue what treasures really are. Congrats.