This post ended up as part 1 in an emotional journey documenting their work and paying our respects to the women, both past and present, whose hands created these functional pieces of home decor that ended up being venerated as artwork in our home today. More than that, they have become reminders to us of the values of the craftspeople who have come before us and have created a standard by which we now create our work in our design studios.
As is the case with quilts and afghans handed down through generations, some of these pieces were created to mark significant occasions in our lives. This was exactly the case with this quilt that came from Shannon's side of the family.
Oh yeah… check out the hand quilting. The only arms involved in quilting these pieces were actually really short… by their own description, my grandmother and her two sisters were "maybe 5 foot nuthin' and a half" tall.
Truth be told, I don't think any of them actually reached 5 feet tall… maybe my grandmother if she stretched up really tall… maybe… but definitely not the great-aunts.
I remember them standing on a little kitchen stool and nearly laying across the huge quilting frame to reach some of their work.
Because of their influence, to this day when I see a quilt, the first thing I do is look at the back. (All quilters do this… right?)
Yup… no matter how stunning the front was, grandma and her sisters always looked at the back of the quilt to look at the quality of the stitches and to see the hidden pattern the quilter might have incorporated into their work.
In the case of the Little Dutch Boy, the quilting pattern is columns of chevrons intricately worked together with spider webs! I thought that was SO cool when I was little! Seriously… who else gets a baby afghan with spider webs woven into it? Coolest grandma ever.
Note here how they changed thread color as they quilted over the different parts of the Dutch Boy's clothes. And there is NO mistaking those handmade rocker stitches. I can still see their thimbled fingers rocking those little needles up and down as they worked along their pattern lines.
I have vivid memories of those three tiny ladies sitting around this GINORMOUS quilting frame. The frame was green and long enough to take up most of my great-aunt's front room.
The sides of the frame had these big roller bars that they wrapped the quilt top, batting, and back onto. Then there were these loud ratchet mechanisms that locked the side roller bars into place. You really have to picture these tiny ladies putting their muscle power behind tightening those roller bars by hand as the ratchet clicked and locked into place.
After all the wrestling and set up was finished, all three women pulled chairs up to the frame and set small lamps on the quilt as they were working on it.
Eventually, they taught me how to do their quilting stitches and I helped them put the unwieldy frame together after I was older. Mostly, though, I remember sitting in the front room or on the porch in the swing reading and watching them through the front window while they would quilt and chat.
I look at the evenness of the stitch patterns in the fabrics and see how closely the fabric panels fit together at the joints and seams with the same thoughtful consideration as my grandmother and great-aunts gave to constructing their quilts.
I am proud of that heritage. I am honored to have been the inheritor of their skills, knowledge, and wisdom. I hope that, in some small way, we are honoring these past artisans by passing along our skills in our patterns and in our tutorials here on Shibaguyz Designz.
We have a LOT of these quilts and afghans and each one tells a story. We will share them with you here because… well… who doesn't love a good story? Also, if you are coming here to our blog, you are probably a maker yourself and understand the importance behind the stories because you have your own stories too.
Who has influenced you as a maker? Who passed on their skills to you so you could do what you do today? Share their story with us in the comments below and come back for more stories and, yes, more beautiful quilts and afghans from our family's makers.
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