these actually are your grandmother’s quilts

handmade antique quilts

The phrase, “Not your grandmother’s quilt” is so prevalent in articles about quilts these days–as if our grandmother’s quilts are somehow “less than” what we are creating today. I could not disagree more.

So today, I’d like to introduce you to three quilts made by my husband’s grandmother, Lettie Maude. As is the way it goes, his mother did not inherit the sewing gene and sadly had little information about them. But he remembers them on the beds in the house all throughout  his childhood. And then he brought them with him when we got married. Even though they were threadbare even then, we continued to use them for many years. I just noticed them in the linen cabinet recently and pulled them out to appreciate them with new eyes.

We don’t really know when they were made, but I’m guessing the 1930s and 40s. I’m no expert, but the fabrics seem consistent with that and it makes sense with her age as well. They are all utilitarian scrap quilts and my husband says that he actually remembers some of the fabrics coming from his grandmother’s dresses. Though the are meant for use and using up bits of old clothes and bits of fabric–each quilt has a unique design that prevents it from being to chaotic.

This little gem was on my daughter’s bed until she left for college last fall. And while it is clearly scrappy–I love how the light and dark purples really give it pattern and structure.

antique quilt

It is worn through in many places, but this didn’t actually stop us from using it until recently.

All three quilts are all machine quilted, but the stitch length on the piecing leads me to believe that these were all hand pieced. The quilter definitely wasn’t worried about points either!

This totally cracks me up. Three of the four corners are curved, but that fourth one is totally squared off as if to say, “I’m done with this already!” This one is machine bound with a crazy zig-zag stitch–another sign that this quilt was meant to be used.

This next one is a very simple scrappy Nine Patch. The design is calmed down by a couple of factors. One is the white snowball block that alternates with the nine patches. But the other I found really interesting. Every nine patch has either green or yellow patches in the corners and center square. This provides a unifying color scheme. Now, our quilter did not arrange these green and yellow blocks in any order–they are totally random–which I find totally charming, but not at all anything I could ever do. And, do you see that hole?

This one is also machine quilted and the design is so uniform that for a moment I wondered if it was computer generated–but obviously not! I guess the quilter just had made these designs so many times that they are amazingly uniform.  And I know I said that every block was either green or yellow–but can you spot that rogue yellow square in what was supposed to be a green block? A humility block, perhaps? Or ore likely, she just ran out of green fabric.

It’s fun to look at the quilting pattern–I remember asking my mother-in-law how they were done. I was not a quilter yet and had no idea about free motion quilting. Achieving this shape on a domestic sewing machine seemed impossible to me. All she said was, “She sent them away to be quilted.” So, I have no idea if they were done on a longarm or a domestic machine–but the designs seem to be in long columns, so I’m thinking a longarm–which was called a “quilting machine” in those days.

Here is the last one. While also a scrap quilt, the design really unifies the scrappiness..

I actually love the way that fabric on this one is just literally wearing away in a swiss cheese fashion.

And there is that same quilting pattern!

antique quilt pattern

All three of these quilts have been retired from active use and are now happily folded on a bench in our family room to appreciate in a new way. I would like to think that Lettie Maude would be happy to know that these labors of love have been in use for the last 80 or so years. And we continue to appreciate them to this day.

I am actually thinking about remaking one of them in contemporary fabrics–but I haven’t decided which one yet. Which one would you choose?

12 thoughts on “these actually are your grandmother’s quilts

  1. Vada Rogers says:

    Kristin, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful family quilts. I love that they have been used and loved and now sit in a place of honor to continue to enjoy. I personally love the scrappy nine patch but find the last one quite intriguing. Have fun choosing 🙂 I look forward to seeing your progress!

  2. Veronica Norris says:

    I have 2 quilts that my great-grandmother made. One was made in the late 30’s early 40’s that is what my grandmother told me. The second one is the last top she made before she passed in 1978. The ladies at my grandmother’s church finished it. They did a nice job quilting it though it does have that thick polyester batting. I gave it to my daughter who adores it and is proud that it was hand pieced by her great-great-grandmother.

  3. Rosemary Bolton says:

    I want to make all three.
    I love these quilts. They are gems.
    I just love every single thing about these, I love all of the irregular specialties. ♥️

  4. Jean Bissell says:

    My first choice to make would be the third. I really like that block & it seems a little more unique. Did you notice one block is rotated in the center of the bottom row?

  5. Kathy Howard says:

    I loved seeing these quilts. They still look so lovely from a distance. These remind me of the quilt that my grandmother made me. It was also worn out about the time I started quilting . I took it apart and only saved one block (she had mainly used recycled fabric), the backing (new when made and heavier fabric), and the cotton blanket inside. I reused the blanket and the backing for another quilt.

  6. Interesting quilts! I love looking at them – and they’re all well-loved, which is what grandma would have wanted. I love that she had them machine-quilted! And I love the designs too. I’m guessing that with the green/yellow nine-patches, it’s possible all of the yellows were once green, and just faded out differently, being different fabrics! I have a great-grandmother who pieced quilts similar to these, and it’s fascinating to go on a quilt quest to try and find out why, when, for whom and how she made it. I keep thinking she’s looking over my shoulder as I quilt – man, would she have loved my rotary tools, and my sewing machine, and my longarm…

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