Posted by: ktzefr | May 7, 2013

6 Appalachian Quilts: A Mother’s Day Celebration

IMG_8649I grew up sleeping under quilts my mom had made by hand.  I was not an anomaly — at least not so far as quilts were concerned.  Every kid I knew had moms or grandmothers or aunts who pieced quilts.  And we needed a bunch.  Our house was heated only by a coal stove and a fireplace and the fires were banked at night, so it got chilly.  (Banking a fire is simply — though not so simply done — adding just the right amount of burnt-out embers to cover and put out the flames so the fire simmers beneath, but does not flame until new wood or coal is added.)

My mom stitched quilts by hand and on her Singer sewing machine, which now sits in my foyer.  Most of my clothes were made on this machine and it sat in the back of our store so Mom could alternate between helping customers and sewing dresses.  The store was next door to our house, so she was a “working” mom, a “stay-at-home” mom, a seamstress, cook, and gardener.  And so much more.  She had enormous patience, a solid faith, and wisdom that seemed to come naturally.  I celebrate Mother’s Day this year with a few of my favorite quilts.  

Mom pieced this Flower Garden for me when I got married. 

 

Flower Garden quilt; Photo:KFawcett

Flower Garden quilt; Photo:KFawcett

 

The Lone Star quilt is supposed to be one star, but for some reason my mom thought one star alone was bad luck.  So she designed this one — the Lone Star with friends.  She treated patterns and recipes as “suggestions” and wasn’t afraid to do things her own way.  She passed this trait on to her children, as well.  My brother, sister, and I tend to read the directions (sometimes) and then put our own spin on life.  

Quilt of Stars; Photo:KFawcett

Quilt of Stars; Photo:KFawcett

 

Every year, after my dad died, my mom spent several weeks in the summers with us and visited again at Christmastime.  We always went to the fabric stores and bought yards of material, which she cut into pieces for quilts.  She often went back to Kentucky after these visits with quilt squares in her suitcase to finish at home.  The Dutch Girl is another favorite.

 

Dutch Girl quilt; Photo:KFawcett

Dutch Girl quilt; Photo:KFawcett

 

The dogwood quilt is simply made of squares and tacked with white embroidery thread.  It’s the material that makes the difference.  I love the dogwood blooms in spring and have two trees in our back yard.  In Kentucky they grow wild all over the hills surrounding the house where I grew up.  So I wanted a blooming quilt and Mom made this one.

 

Dogwood quilt; Photo:KFawcett

Dogwood quilt; Photo:KFawcett

 

This may be a one-of-a-kind!  The United Colors of Benetton quilt was the result of my mom finding a large piece of fabric cheap and knowing the ease with which it could be turned into a quilt.  She had seen the fabric with the flags and knew that I loved to travel and often talked about “other countries” so she bought the bolt of material and went to work.  The great thing about this quilt is that it’s unusually warm.  Instead of a layer of batting for the “stuffing,” she used a thick blanket. 

 

United Colors of Benetton quilt; Photo:KFawcett

United Colors of Benetton quilt; Photo:KFawcett

 

There are so many others — lots of simple squares big and small, another flower garden in all pink and green, and two very fun quilts, each made from single swaths of material, which she stitched for our son.  One is all about cats and the other has dolphins swimming in a blue-green sea.  But my favorite is a quilt my son designed and my mom patched.  They called it Crazy Eights (there is an actual pattern with this name, but it’s not the same), and he chose to have the Eights set up on a bright green background. 

Crazy Eights; Photo:KFawcett

Crazy Eights; Photo:KFawcett

Almost every day something reminds me of my mom — the spring flowers in bloom, an old gospel song that gets stuck in my head, a sudden chill that has me looking for an extra quilt to put on the bed.  In Appalachia quilts were never made just to keep you warm; they were also a way to send love down through the generations.  I feel very fortunate to have a whole bunch in my house. 

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!

 

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Responses

  1. I have a treasured Dutch girl quilt fashioned by my grandmother. Ah, the patience that goes into these projects awes me.

    • It does take patience. I admire folks who make things by hand. I never really learned to sew, so I’m grateful to have my mom’s handiwork.

  2. I still have mine mamaw made me as a kid 🙂 A little worn, but still full of love ❤

  3. Your “Dutch Girl” is known around here as Sunbonnet Sue. My mother had a quilt with “Sues” virtually identical to yours, except that they have pockets. The arms are the same fabric as the dress and the pockets match the hats and shoes. Sue’s dresses were made from fabrics from my mom’s outgrown or worn out clothes and the quilt itself broke down after so many years, but Mom saved a number of the Sues and I made a wall-hanging out of them for her.

    • What a lovely story, Shelley! Every handmade quilt has a story to tell — sometimes even the small, individual pieces. I’ll have to pass this name, Sunbonnet Sue, along to others. It’s the first time I’ve heard it called Sue. Thanks for reading/commenting. 🙂


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