Keeping it in the Family: Our Heirloom Quilt
Posted on April 11 2019
love New Orleans and want to give back to the city.
In 2015, my daughter Karen and I opened Chateau Sew and Sew, a progressive fabric and sewing studio located at 2103 Magazine Street in the Lower Garden District. Since then, we have grown not by leaps and bounds, but by friends and customers who make every day special. Recently, Karen and I decided to form a quilting group. During the decision process, memories of my Grandmother, Karen’s Great Grandmother, have been racing around my mind. My Grandmother has had a great deal of influence on my life’s path.
Please, allow me to tell you a story I heard at my Grandmother’s knee: She was born before the Great Depression (I ‘m sure you’ve read about it…), and learned to sew from her mother, my Great Grandmother. My Great Grandmother sewed as a necessity. She made all of my mother’s clothes, sheets, towels and anything else that was needed around the house by hand (no machines in her time). One of the most important things she made was quilts,, which she would give as wedding presents and christening gifts. When she’d keep one, they’d use it used until it was in tatters.
All these decades later, I still have one of her hand made quilts she made. It’s in pretty bad shape; the binding is coming off, and the stuffing is coming out in a couple of places. But it is one of my most prized possessions.
She told me how she and some of the other women in their rural community where they lived would go to the cotton field when harvesting season was finished to pick up the leftover bits of cotton. They would take the pieces home, comb the burs and pieces of trash out of them and store them until they had enough to stretch and pull them to form the “batting” they needed to make their quilts. Since they lived on a very rural farm and didn’t get to the “city” very often, a peddler would come around(in a horse drawn wagon) to sell them the essentials they needed. One of these essentials was flour. I remember the homemade biscuits she made when I visited every morning for breakfast (yummy). But getting back to the story…
When she was finished with the flour, guess what was left? A flour sack. Flour, at that time, came in fifty-pound sacks. At first the sacks were made from plain cotton; but, as time went by, the manufactures became more conscious that women were reusing them for their sewing needs. My Grandmother used them to make my Mom the dresses she wore to church, school, and to play. When her clothes wore out, or she out grew them, my Grandmother would repurpose them for quilt tops (who knew the first recyclers were around about 100 years ago?).
The quilt I have is a simple pattern made of four-inch squares. Not much time for intricate sewing for her. My Mom used it for many years, and now I have it. It has been displayed in my sewing room for years, but I thought it made more sense to display it in the shop I share with my daughter, community, and customers. I love it and I would love to share many more stories about my family.