Do quilting and family history go together?
I recently had the opportunity to attend a quilting retreat. It was located at the Cathedral Ridge Conference Center in Woodland Park, Colorado. Checkin time starts at 4pm Friday and checkout time is noon on Sunday. There is time after arrival to set up sewing machines and find your room. We troop over to the dining hall for meals. After dinner, our hostess hands out the first set of instructions for the ‘mystery’ quilt.
By mystery, I mean that we have no idea what the pattern looks like. We buy and precut our fabric based on fabric ‘coordinating’ or ‘contrasting’ descriptions in the instructions. Then the fun begins. We sew certain pieces together, eventually creating blocks, without ever knowing what the end result will look like. Every couple of hours or so, we receive another step until Saturday evening, when all the instructions have been handed out. Hopefully, everyone can complete their quilt top by Sunday checkout time. No pressure there!
I did pretty good this year. I got most of the top together. I have the last border left. I was having trouble with my sewing machine, and that slowed me down. The outer border will be the floral print and the binding will be the turquoise. I haven’t thought of a name for it yet. Do you have any ideas?
What does quilting have to do with family history?
What does my quilting have to do with family history? For some time now, memory quilts have been very popular. They range from t-shirt quilts to photographic transfer quilts. For example, this wonderful picture quilt, created by Chelle Ludwinski, hangs on the wall above her stairs. Currently, the quilt has no label, although Chelle does talk about the pictures to her family and tell the stories. Her thought is to type up the names and pin them on the back of the quilt. Chelle shared another wonderful family history tip. They had a family ‘his-tree’ with little ornaments that were pieces of the stories of their ancestors-another way to share the stories.
Another example is this amazing bookcase quilt created by J Lee Bagon of Desert Moon Quilt Co. for a family that immigrated from Belgium. J Lee entered it into a quilt contest and won an award for the design. She calls it a 5 Generation Bookcase Scrapbook Memory Quilt. Each shelf represents a generation of the family. The top shelf included photos of the grandparents, and the next shelf the parents, then the siblings with their spouses. Then were the grandchildren and on the lowest shelf, the great-grandchildren. One wonderful story that J Lee shared with me, is that on the top row of the bookshelf, is a picture of the grandfather plowing his field with a team of elk (very hard to see). This quilt was made as a 50th anniversary gift.
The only label this quilt has is the label that was required by the quilt show, including the name of the quilt, “Montana Memories”, the date, the name of the quilter, and the location. A quilt like this can be made to order on J Lee Bagon’s site.
I am fascinated by the beautiful family history quilts being made. It is on my list to make one.
As a quilter, I’ve been taught you should always label your quilts. Include your name, the name of the receiver of the quilt, the date and place the quilt was made, the occasion that inspired the quilt (birthday, anniversary) and if the quilt has a name. When antique quilts are found, it is always a treasure to find a label or an embroidered name or a date that somehow identifies the quilt; if there is some kind of clue as to who made the quilt or when. Mostly, and sadly, those kinds of details are lost to time.
Quilt like a Genealogist!
What if did our quilting like we do our genealogy?
As genealogists, we are taught to source and cite everything. Names, maiden names, dates, and locations.
As a genealogist, how might your family history or memory quilt be labeled? If your quilt is labeled ‘Auntie Mary Sue’ it would give indication of who made it. But if it were labeled ‘Auntie Mary Sue (Boo) Whoo (1868-1923), Denver, Colorado’, it could serve as a genealogical source as well. If everyone in every picture were labeled and included birth/death dates and locations if known, would this be considered genealogical proof? Perhaps the label would end up the size of an 8 x 11 ½ inch page, but would it be worth it to future generations who might find such a quilt with pictures that were labeled?
Is this something for memory or family history quilters to strive for? What other information do you think should be included? Is this a good idea? Join the discussion.