Here in Minnesota we have definately hit the ‘dog days’ of summer. The haze in the air is heavy, the heat is well into the nineties, and the garden is looking rather beat up. Hummingbirds and butterflies are feasting before they start their long migrations. The tomatoes and beans absolutely love this humid heat, but I yearn for a dip in the lake.
I have noticed over the years that August can bring a quilting lull to many quilters, myself included. Be it the heat, getting families ready for school, or making a last round of summer activities, quilting seems to take the back seat for a while. Is this true for you? Come September, I am often recharged and ready to take on new projects, and start finishing toppers I have sewn over the summer. For my southern hemisphere followers, I suspect you are anticipating spring, and shifting gears in a different way. Personally, I have two reactions to August. One is that I need to hurry up and do those summer things I love one more time. The other is more pensive, knowing that the last four months of the calendar year are soon upon us, and they always seem to fly by in a blur.In the summer I often pull out one of my favorite vintage quilts. Made by my great-aunt Ebba, it sports blue appliqued pansies on a white background. This quilt is showing its age, which is understandable for a quilt made in the Depression Era and obviously used on a regular basis. As a child it was my summer bedspread, although now I delegate it to viewing only. It was looking at my Aunt Ebba’s quilts, and contrasting them with the fabrics and methods we have today, that started me working on The CQ Quilting Chronicles. The fabrics in quilts that she made in the 1930’s are sometimes not as high quality as her later ones. Quilts from this era are often scrappy ones made from worn clothing, or very simple and straightforward in design with only one or two colors. Did Aunt Ebba ever wonder about the people who grew the cotton and worked in the mills that produced her fabrics?
Pansies have been popular in applique quilts for over 150 years, at least. There are quilts made in the mid-1800’s with nearly identical patterns. This particular pansy quilt has a puzzle, with some blocks far more faded than others.I suspect that means she used fabrics and threads she gathered from several sources. There is one block whose leaves are is distinctly yellow. Was it yellow intentionally, or did that skein of thread lose its’ green vibrancy over time? To me this is part of the appeal. I love looking at her embroidery, quilting, and applique, and imagine her planning and creating this gem. Aunt Ebba is a myth to me, having never met her—all I know of her life is in her quilts.
Her quilts are not visions of perfection, but are very well executed. They were clearly made to be used. They have been cherished by many cousins, more proof that one does not need to create masterpieces to build a family tradition that binds generations. I have no clue if she made the quilts to be used by her family, or for gifts. I wonder who inspired her to learn this craft. Somehow, I think she would be surprised and amused to find that, some 80 years later, her family holds her dear because of the legacy she left us.
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