Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Nana, 107 Years Later

My Nana was born in 1902 and died in 1999. For those of you who never tasted her apple fritters, too bad for you. I've been writing a series of posts on Crafting a Green World about finding my Nana's quilts stuffed away in a back closet in my Papa's house over Christmas; admiring, airing, fluffing, carefully re-folding them and putting them back nicely in that same closet (likely to be aired, fluffed, and carefully refolded every time I visit); and spending some time exploring the online quilt collections held by museums worldwide.

One of Nana's quilts, however, had apparently been put aside as a wedding present for me and long-lost (I've been married...um...I never can remember off of the top of my head on account of my wedding was a nightmare and I've repressed the majority of my memories of it). The huge fuss I made over Nana's quilts jogged my mother's memory, however, and one quilt that had been stuffed away unseen for probably 30 years now lives in the light on my daughters' bed.I taught myself to quilt a long time before I learned that it's a passion I shared with my great-grandmother. I just hope that ten years after I've died an old, old lady, all the quilts that I've ever made will still be danced upon by little girls in dress-up clothes:

12 comments:

Meg said...

That would be what I would want, too.

My fiance got a quilt from a great-aunt a long time ago. We finally took it home from his parents' house, with the warning that we should keep it nice. "Maybe you could hang it on the wall," his mom suggested.

I could see us doing that if it was an amazing masterpiece of quilting skill, or meant a whole lot to Chad, but I know that neither of those facts apply in this case. So, I think we should use it on the guest bed! I'm not sure if I can convice Chad of that though, so it's still folded on a shelf in the closet. I think it's a waste.

Jenny said...

Very sweet.

We have several quilts that my husband's grandmother made at least 30 years ago. They'd been stored away for years and after discovering them I really debated whether to use them or save them. I eventually decided to just go ahead and use them. Over the past few years a couple of them have started to show some wear and tear from frequent washings (what do you expect when you have kids who have accidents, get sick, spill juice, and drag them around the house collecting dog hair and dirt?) Sometimes I feel the slightest twinge of guilt that we're going to wear them out, then I just hope that the husband's grandmother was the type who would've been tickled pink to know that her great-grandbabies were snuggling with her handmade quilts and using them to make forts. I hope that would have made her happy.

I also found one quilt top in pristine condition that still needs to be quilted and bound. I think that I'll save that one for Anna Pearl- one of these days I'll finish it and save it for when she gets married, or gets her first house or some other big milestone.

cake said...

what a gorgeous shot, and a great post.

i'm with you, and jenny and meg-- hand made quilts should be used until they wear out. i had one my great grandmother made, and used it on my bed as child, later as a teenager, and throughout my early twenties. i no longer have it or any family heirlooms (long story) and i am happy that i used that quilt instead of "saving" it. the colors and stitching and pattern are etched into my memory forever.

i recently found a gorgeous old quilt at the antique store on walnut, for $35, and snatched it up. i don't have history with that quilt, or its maker, but i just love looking at all the different fabrics, and the hand stitching, and i love having it on our bed. it is worn, the fabric is deteriorating in places, and that is just fine by me.

julie said...

Yeah, one of the things that blew my mind when I first started studying archival preservation is that we simply can't preserve our stuff forever--forever simply doesn't exist. Even the Gutenburg Bible in the vault of the Lilly Library will eventually deteriorate into dust.

Library use, from public to special collections is all about access vs. preservation--the less access you allow to an item, the longer it will be preserved, but the more carefully you preserve something, the less you can have access to it. There's a George Washington letter at the Lilly that lives in a tiny closed box, and nobody ever EVER gets to open that box and look at it. They'll show you the box, and show you a copy of the letter, but the fact is that to keep the letter from being dust already they have to prevent anybody from actually looking at it.

Knowing that, and knowing that the people I might preserve my treasures for may or may not appreciate them the way that I do, I do think that for the most part, it's much better to choose reasonable access over excessive conservation. Unless my quilt is a national treasure...

Matt and I have this joke that on Antiques Roadshow, if something turns out to be REALLY valuable, then as soon as the camera turns off these men in black suits with earpieces will walk up to the hapless citizen and confiscate whatever they have as a national treasure, and they'll take it off to some big warehouse somewhere, never to be seen again.

julie said...

Ooh, and Meg, you should tell Chad that it's actually much better for the preservation of the quilt to lay it over a little-used bed than to fold it up. Folding it wears on the fold lines, and generally items are preserved best by being placed in the positioning that they were designed for--ie. laid out on a bed.

Meg said...

Awesome idea, Julie! We'll see if he buys it. I'll report back later.

Abby said...

this is a beautiful post, and that is a beautful photo.

Teresa R said...

I love your Nana's quilt on your daughter's bed! I enjoy sewing, but have never taken up quilting. I know it brings joy to the quilter and the recipient though (as your photo shows)...and that thought nags at me to try quilting sometimes.

julie said...

The thing that I hate most in the world is to give or sell a quilt to someone who tells me that they're going to put it away to keep it nice. Ugh!

The only and last quilt I made my mother was one I spent months and months on--I appliqued patchwork squares onto a patchwork background, and on each square I did a T-shirt transfer image of a family member, or the name of a family member. My mother receives it, clearly loves it, and announces that she's going to put it up at the top of her closet to keep it nice.

You know, nice for whom? Me? I spent four months making it--I never want to see it again. I didn't make that quilt to be put up in the top of the closet for 40 years--I made it so that my mother could go to sleep at night embraced by all her loved ones.

And now all her loved ones are stuffed at the top of the closet. Probably in a garbage bag. With mothballs.

Teresa R said...

Did you tell your mom what you just said to us? Will she understand? I remember reading advice about life being too short to pack the good china away for special occasions, so use the damn things. Same thing goes for quilts, etc. :)

julie said...

Ugh, no, let's just say that my mother would not comprehend. She'd instead feel unhappy that she wasn't doing something right, and then maybe she'd even try to take down the quilt and use it on her bed because I want her to, but then she'd be unhappy because she'd think she was ruining her nice quilt.

I'll just let her leave it up there in the closet and then bury her with it or something, I suppose.

Tina said...

I wish I had some quilts from my grandparents. Come to think of it, I should probably call my paternal grandparents because I bet Grammy would have a few kicking around. I remember her being the one to teach me how to sew a button (and that I rolled my eyes and made fun of her in my mind the whole time- rotten kid that I was), and I use to love playing with all the fabric in her sewing room.
I am making a quilt for our king size bed made from our old t-shirts and other clothing that we no longer wear. It really won't be pretty, or even necessarily qualify as a quilt, but it will be warm and it will carry some treasured memories with us wherever we go.
And if it survives long enough, I hope that my grandbabies dance on it every single day.

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