A piece of my quilting history...

I have recently learned that quilting runs in my family. 
My second cousin Wanda, who lives in Mississippi, sent me a priceless gift a few weeks ago: an unfinished quilt top made by her grandmother - my great grandmother.  I am so grateful for this rare occasion, and completely psyched about "connecting" with my great grandmother by finishing her quilt.  In the photo below, she is at the top left, and my cousin is in the middle of the bottom row, next to my mother:

Wanda told me it was made from feedsacks, and I had no idea what that meant.  When I first heard that word I imagined burlap bags or raw linen.  I have since done a bit of research on the net, and these particular feedsacks seem to come from the period between 1930-1950.  They were used before then, but that's the era when they started making them with colourful prints on them, with farmer's wives vying for the pretties ones.  They contained things like rice and cornmeal, and were then recycled by thrifty housewives into things like quilts and even clothing.  There's a lot of very interesting information about the history of American quilting here.

So, without further ado, here are some pictures of my great-grandmother's quilt.




The incredible thing is that this was all obviously hand-sewn.  I would never have the patience to do all that!  If you look closely you can see the hand-stitching, and the small bits of newspaper still attached from the paper piecing.



I already have a few ideas about a backing, and I will definitely hand quilt it, but I'm wondering if I should reinforce the hand stitching on the starts in order to make it strong enough to handle washing in a modern washing machine.  Any suggestions?  If I stitched over the seams I'd have to do it from the front - would it ruin the look to see machine stitches?

3 comments

  1. wow! how special is that! That quilt top is just stunning, that will be so neat to finish something that was started so long ago by a family member!!

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  2. Hi Ann!! Wow, what an incredible heirloom and gift to you and your family. That quilt is stunning!! I have some ideas - first, never wash an antique quilt in a modern machine. The feedsack fabric may be very fragile and the stitches certainly are, so the agitation will be deadly for it. I would recommend pressing it, sandwiching and quilting before trying to clean it (but spot clean any stains before pressing). I wouldn't go over the hand stitches with a machine. If you see some loose seams, stitch them by hand. There are hundreds of 80-100 year old hand-stitched quilts that are 'still standing'!! For washing, lay a sheet in the bathtub, gently bunch up the quilt on top of the sheet and soak in a gentle lavender, or quilt wash. Using the sheet to support the quilt, lift it out of the tub (this will definitely take 2 people). Try not to squeeze too much, best to roll the quilt in a bunch of dry towels. Let the quilt dry flat in the sun with the backside up (so the front doesn't fade).

    Good luck with this amazing project!!!! You're so very fortunate to have such a special quilt (and a beauty at that!).

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  3. wow, what an absolutely beautiful piece of history! you are so, so lucky to have such a special family heirloom. thanks for the email, looking forward to seeing your future projects :)

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