I didn’t mean to buy another quilt. Really, I didn’t. But it was only $45.00, and it was so sad–but beautiful at the same time.
It was really in bad shape, with lots of spots, fading and disintegrating fabric.
This quilt was such a study in contrasts. The Sue’s were all appliqued on flour sacks.
But the stitching was amazing.
And there was an incredible variety of stitches around the girls….
…and on their hats.
And did you notice that each sleeve has a little white cuff?
As you can see, I took the quilt apart. It was tied, and the edge of the top was folded to the back and zigzag stitched. The filling was a worn out old blanket. Boy, did I make a mess! And, of course, as I worked, I made up a story about the origins of this quilt. Here it is:
Tillie, the maker of the quilt, was born in the late 1800′s. She had four brothers. Tillie was the youngest. By the time her four brothers were married, her parents were in failing health, so Tillie remained at home to care for them. By the time they passed, Tillie was past marrying age. She had no marketable skills and no resources. It fell to her brothers to look after her. Tillie would spend a month with each brother. Of course, this didn’t thrill their wives, but Tillie tried to make herself useful. The one skill she possessed was sewing, so she passed the time at each house sewing clothes for members of the family with whom she was residing. Her sisters-in-law would purchase fabric before Tillie arrived and have a list of things for her to make. Tillie enjoyed this and felt that she was contributing to the household. One brother had a little girl, Matilda, that was Tillie’s favorite. Tillie asked Matilda’s mother for fabric to make a special quilt for Matilda, but her mother said that would be a frivolous thing and wouldn’t buy the fabric. So, Tillie saved scraps from her other sewing, and at each household where she stayed, she gathered discarded flour sacks. In her spare moments, she would make another Sunbonnet Sue block until she had 36 beautiful blocks. She had even saved enough flour sacks to piece a backing. Back at Matilda’s parents house, she was ready to baste the quilt together when she fell ill. She soon realized that she wouldn’t be able to finish Matilda’s quilt. On her deathbed, she pleaded with her sister-in-law to finish the quilt. Her sister-in-law begrudgingly promised that she would. After Tillie’s death, her sister-in-law found an old blanket, laid it between the quilt top and backing, turned the edges of the quilt top to the back, not caring that she caught some of the pretty applique in the seams, and zigzag stitched around it. Matilda loved her quilt and the memories of her Aunt Tillie. She enjoyed looking at the pretty fabrics and beautiful stitching and slept with the quilt every night for years and years, eventually passing it down to her daughter. Of course the ungrateful wretch thought it was just an old rag, sold it at a garage sale, where an antique dealer bought it, put it in her booth at the antique mall and it found its way to me!
And I love these blocks. They’re really inspiration to me. Thank you, Tillie.