Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sunbonnet Sue and Overall Sam

This quilt has always been part of my life.  It goes back as far as memory, for me.

I grew up sleeping under it at our cabin at Pinecrest, in the Sierras of California.  It was my favorite quilt.  I loved all the different colored dresses on the little girls and the funny boys in overalls.  I didn't know its story then, but I loved it.

My dad sold the cabin in the 70's, the quilt was packed in a trunk, and I saw it now and then at my folks' place.  And then one day, after my mom had gotten sick and couldn't tell me where things were anymore, I went looking for it and couldn't find it.  I asked my dad.  No idea.  Whew.  I wondered where in the world it could have gone.  Several years passed, and still no sign of it anywhere.

Then one day when I was helping my dad move stuff out of the old barn, I caught a glimpse of green and white and thought, "What in the world???"  I pulled that green and white off of some old boards, and there it was.  "My" quilt.  Very dirty, but still intact!

I took it home and it sat for awhile.  I wasn't sure what I should do to care for it.  Eventually, it started smelling moldy and I decided it was time to take it apart and see what I could do with it.

It was a tied quilt, so I took out all the ties and separated the top from the back.  What I found inside was amazing to me.  Several old wool sweaters had been taken apart and opened up flat and then stitched to a flannel sheet to form the batting. I recognized  two of them from pictures.  One had been my uncle's and one my mother's.  Truly a Depression Quilt.  I washed both the top and back and then set them away again, waiting until I knew what to do next.

In the meantime, I talked with my uncle, and he told me that it was their aunt - his and my mom's -who had made the quilt for my mom in 1937 or '38.  I got inspired to restore it, but still didn't really know what to do.

In 2011, Maggie and I were blessed to fall into an incredible quilt group.  I took the quilt top and asked them what they would do with it, and I was given good advice, which I followed.

So, after soaking it in Oxyclean, repairing some of the embroidery, then using some of the uneven border fabric to patch the holes caused by the ties pulling through, I sandwiched it with cotton batting, and basted it.

I started with outlining the Sues and Sams and the four sides of each block with hand quilting.  I thought that would be as far as I would take it.  I hadn't been a hand quilter until then.  But with the gentle encouragement of my compatriots at our quilting group, I decided to crosshatch all the blocks, as well.  Then when that was all finished, I added the twisted rope border in the sashing.  And then I bound it.  The only fabric that is not from the 30's is the binding.  If ever I find an original 30's piece of museum green that matches the sashing and border fabric, I'll probably replace what I've used.

The fabrics in this treasure are a wonderful representation of the patterns available in the 30's.  The prints are sweet.  The solids wonderful.  The back is a delightful patchwork of 3 different fabrics.  I just love the historicity a piece like this contains.

So, in memory of my mom, Winifred Brown Thompson, I have this fabulous reminder of her childhood and mine because Helen Moe took the time to make and gift to Mom a quilt during the Depression.  Thank you, Aunt Helen.

Happy Quilting!