Faded Pansies

(c) Andor, gollamnit.wordpress.com, used by permission

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.

Ebba's Faded Pansies

A vision of summer, this pansy quilt has been loved for three generations, so far.

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.

Ebba's Faded Pansies 2

The stitchery colors have faded unevenly on this old quilt.

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.

©2010, The Curious Quilter, thecuriousquilter.net, maryeoriginals.com.


About thecuriousquilter

Quilter, sewer, writer, gardener, mother, sister, friend, always learning, always curious.
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4 Responses to Faded Pansies

  1. Linda says:

    I know what you mean about old quilts. My grandmother used sewing scraps, flour sacks and outgrown clothes for her quilts. I still have one she made me while I was in high school in the ’60s. It is quite dark, being made out of deep colors of red, blue and green. It is very simple. The squares are made out of diagonal strips of fabric, and it is tied with bright red thread.

    It’s interesting that you wonder if your aunt ever thought about the people who picked the cotton. My mom had to drop out of school in the 4th grade (in Arkansas or Oklahoma) to help support the family by “chopping” cotton as she called it. This would have been in the 20’s and 30’s. Wouldn’t it be something if some of the cotton that my mother picked ended up in a quilt that your aunt made?! Stranger things have happened…..8-)


    • Hearing about people’s family members who labored over the cotton make the fabrics all the more special today! One of the true delights of blogging is when people share.

      That sort of possible connection is one reason I encourage quilters to think about the hands of the people who touched their fabrics before them as I work on The CQ Cotton Chronicles. While most of the cotton we buy today has been grown with automation, some is still hand harvested. We are enjoy the fruits of other people’s labor when we create our quilts.

  2. Sarah Schultte says:

    It is very sweet. I love the softness of the old fabrics.

    I also think August it too hot for much sewing unless you have air conditioning, which I do not. Besides, there are beans to freeze.

  3. Sue H says:

    Hi, Mary, and thanks for stopping by my blog! I’ve enjoyed my visit to your blog, and will definitely be back. I’ve been busy sewing lately. I kind of go in streaks, but I have two challenges due in September and I have two gift quilts that I’m behind on. Plus, the state fair entry days are in two weeks and I have a couple of things to finish up by then! Nice to meet you…

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