Friday, January 16, 2009

Old and Cherished

I'm in the City Of Brotherly Love- Philadelphia, PA. I'm here visiting family. I'm staying with my niece, Meredith. While we were spending time together, she showed me some quilts made by her grandmother, Leona Tillman. Leona was from Bayou La Batre, Alabama. She was a "real" quilter. I'm not sure if she ever actually purchased fabric off of a bolt in a fabric store in her life. But she made more quilts than anyone seems to be able to number. She used feed sacks, old clothes, and scraps. Everyone knew Leona would always take your scraps! Leona was my sister-in-law's mother, and when my own children were born in the 80's, a hand made quilt appeared in the mail each time. I'd like to share a few of her quilts with you. I'm not sure, but these quilts are probably about 40 years old- give or take. (As with all blog photos, click on them to enlarge)

This one is a sampler. I don't know about you, but when I make a sampler quilt, it's usually planned- several different blocks with somewhat related fabric sewn together with some sort of plan. Not Leona. Her sampler quilts were leftover blocks from quilts she made- or extra blocks made on purpose to have left over. Then- when she had a pile, she stuck them together in a quilt. Three ladies in a row- add a few pieced blocks- throw in another lady- then a few Sunbonnet Sues- and what the heck- throw in a Dresden Plate.

I remember her tracing around cardboard templaits with pencil on the fabric and then cutting out the pieces with scissors. Oh, wait! I remember doing that myself!!! The difference is that I switched to rotary cutters. She was still tracing and cutting with scissors until her last days. I'm not even sure if she ever got a rotary cutter. In fact, I'm not sure she would have used it even if she had one!

Her family can see their old clothing in this one!
Now THIS one is a real surprise. It's a pretty non-descript quilt- just simple old fabric squares sewn and tied. But look closer.....
If you look through the thin, light fabric- you can see another quilt underneath. The old quilt was getting worn, so she just made another quilt and sewed it on top! My niece told me that she did that twice and there are actually 3 quilts in here- all sewn on top of each other. She was so frugal that she put a new top on top rather than waste the batting. Leona loved her craft. She loved fabric and she loved to stitch them into pretty designs. But the pretty designs were secondary to functionality and frugality. Quilts were for function- to keep you warm. And there was no reason to go buying fabric when you had feed sacks, old clothing and scraps. I don't think it ever occurred to her to hang a quilt on the wall or to make a tiny one for show. Leona passed away several years ago. She, and her craft, are missed. But there are many, many quilts that live on and are loved by the people whose lives she touched.


Brenda in Texas said...

I have some of my grandmothers quilts.I can see shirts,dresses and pj,s some many memories in a small piece of fabric.The quilt is beautiful.

Sue said...

You're very fortunate to have your grandmother's quilts, Brenda. I'll bet she'd be proud to know that you just finished your first quilt!

Melanie said...

I know she made the sampler quilt for Char (my sister, Sue's niece), probably when she was about 10, so 17 years ago. Char grabbed it and rescued it from Hurricane Katrina when she was evacuating New Orleans.