Great-great-great.

Dear friends,

A few weeks ago, I was cleaning out my linen closet and stopped to linger over two precious quilts my paternal grandmother made for me. Gram was an accomplished seamstress and crocheter and I was the happy recipient of much of her work — doll clothes, special occasion dresses and costumes, afghans and quilts, and more.

I’m the only one of Marie’s three grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, eight great-great-grandchildren, and one great-great-great-grandchild who has taken up sewing and quilting. It made me sad to think that the generations beyond Marie’s grandchildren wouldn’t have tangible evidence of Gram’s prolific talent. So, on the spur of the moment — which is how I make so many decisions — I decided that Gram’s first great-great-great-grandchild ought to have something handmade and that I would offer it to her in honor of the original Marie. I think it would tickle Gram to know I’ve picked up quilting and that her third great-grandchild’s first grandchild is a beneficiary. (Catch that? Third great-grandchild’s first grandchild? Yeah, talking about six generations gets a little tricky!)

The grandmother in this instance (my first cousin once removed) shares Gram’s name, just like me. Barbara Marie is nearly a decade my junior but I started my family late so our children are the same age. Here’s a photo of my CupKate at her first birthday party with Barbara’s first child, Jane, and another cousin, also named Kate. (My Kate is in the front; her cousin Kate is behind her; and Jane is in the back.)

Jane&Katecrop

And, a generation later, here’s a photo of Jane’s precious daughter, Evie Jane.

eviejane

Evie just turned three. I haven’t had the opportunity to meet her yet but — based on the many photos her grandmother and mother have shared — she seems to be full of spunk. But she’s also a girly girl, enamored of all things pink, especially pink hair bows. I decided her quilt ought to be full of sugar and spice and everything nice so I settled on a mixture of homey and fun fabrics in a pink and blue palette. See what you think:

evie quilt cu

My quilting tastes run more to the modern, whereas Gram’s were very traditional. So I tried to meld the two for Evie Jane’s quilt. The front features a more traditional composition of my design. (The block is called “square in a square” and is constructed using a technique known as foundation paper piecing with the blocks set on point.) The back – with its pieced design incorporating a remnant of the fabric’s selvedge and raw-edge appliqued initials – is a nod to modern quilters. Here’s a view of both sides in full:

evie quilt Collage

I often photograph my quilts while they are under construction and post the pictures on my Instagram and Twitter feeds. When Barbara saw the photo of a close-up of this quilt, she commented “Reminds me of Gram.” She didn’t know, of course, that the Unaquilter was about to ship the quilt to her granddaughter, so when I saw Barbara’s comment on my Instagram feed, my heart instantly soared and I trusted I had made the right choices for my tribute quilt.

There’s nothing quite as personal as the gift of a handmade quilt, both for the quilter and the recipient I suspect. When I look at my Gram’s quilts, I think of all the things I loved most about her. I think about how she always managed to buy me the things my mother couldn’t afford even though she was a widow living on my grandfather’s railroad pension. I think of how she used to let me do crazy things, such as fill a bowl with Pringles, pour Ranch dressing over it, and eat the concoction with a spoon like cereal. I think of her fried chicken — breaded and fried in a cast iron skillet first, then finished in the oven until it was as tender and soft as the mashed potatoes and skillet gravy she served with it. I think of her endless patience for the antics of me and my cousins who loved to spend time at Gram’s house so we could douse ourselves in her White Linen perfume and dress up in her jewelry and white leather evening gloves. I think of the $100 check she mailed me each and every month I was in college and the way she beamed on the day I graduated. I think of the hard candy she always kept tucked away in her “pocket book” and that she would pull out and hand to me if I started coughing in church. I think of the way my name sounded coming off her lips, Joan-Marie, both when she was proud as punch of me and when I  needed correction. I think of how so much of who I am and what I hold dear is a direct reflection of the woman whose third and final grandchild came to her late in life when she had the time and freedom to dote.

I know Evie will feel the same way about her Ba-Ba, and even though she didn’t know Gram and doesn’t yet know me, I hope when she snuggles under the Magpie’s quilt she will think of the woman whose name her grandmother and I share and who lives on through the stories of those of us who loved her.

With gratitude {for Marie},

Joan, who let out a big sigh of relief when she finished this quilt because, let’s face it, she’s been a little lazy lately

Comments

  1. That quilt is adorable and the story to go along with it is as warming as the color palette chosen. When my own Mom gifted any of us with one of her quilts she’d invite us to consider the quilt as delivering us an ongoing hug from her. She’d advise we wrap ourselves in the quilt and her love, whenever we needed to.

    The sewing bug seemed to skip me but recently resurfaced in my daughter, so hopefully our family legacy of made-at-home-with-love pieces will carry forward!

  2. What a great story, and I love the “sense and sensibility” nature of the two sides!

  3. It is so good to remember Mrs. Crenshaw. I could never call her Marie as we were in separate generations. And I, like her, still must call you Joan-Marie. She is surely smiling down on you for keeping the quilting tradition alive in her family. I have special quilts I treasured and kept carefully packed away and repacked from time to time so the folds would not wear. Now they are out and being used. The last one my mother made, a tulip quilt, is my bedspread. The one my first Sunday School techer made when she was 90 and gave to Richard and me for a wedding gift 58 years ago hangs on the back of my rocker and is used to wrap me in warmth when I read late at night. The lap quilt that Traci Norris made me recently has pieces from my mother’s house dresses and a pocket to be used for paper and pencil when I jot down computer sites while watching television. The ragged, very thin, piece of a quilt that I toddled around with 81 years ago serves as a placemat on my dining table. It is good to share our love of quilts with each other.

  4. I realize I’m late in responding to this post, but I just discovered your blog and just had to comment. I just loved your description about how looking at your Gram’s quilts makes you remember things about her. I, too, have a quilt and many afghans made by my grandma (Honey). Her quilt is on our guest bed mainly so I can look at it and think of her. I learned to crochet purposely so someone else in our family would create as she did my whole life. Now, I’d be lost without it, my fingers ache to crochet. I remember her always giving baby afghans to new moms because she felt it was important new babies were wrapped in love. Certainly, God forbid, a store-bought blanket was just not good enough for a precious child. And, of course, love was in every stitch of her blankets. To her, it was absolutely helpful to be able to touch something that was proof you were adored. She was right, it is. I mainly give away what I crochet because of how it warms my heart to do so. Just passing on a little love, just like Honey did. You wrote those feelings much more eloquently that I could. Evie is a very lucky recipient!

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