poetry and prose about place

from the pages of an old diary – making a quilt

with 8 comments

My great-aunt’s diary often records her activities as part of her Red Cross group.  In the years from 1954 to 1957, and beyond, this group of 4 to 9 women met every Friday to work together on a community project.   They worked quickly.  On September 17, 1957 they put on two crib quilts and finished them by October 1, 1957  (three meetings).

Sometimes they worked on a layette for a new mother and her baby (February 8, 1957).  Most often, they worked on a quilt (for example, March 22, 1957), doing the piecing and quilting as a group.  In addition, my great-aunt often took a quilt home ‘to bind’ (for example, March 29, 1957). 

Sometimes the group made money for a local cause by selling quilt ‘squares’.  On April 12, 1957, my great-aunt wrote: ‘…we took a quilt out. we are going to make one to sell. money for hosp [hospital]. to work on its 10¢ a name.’  The next evening, she called at a neighbour’s house and sold 5 squares.  On May 3, 1957, she wrote, ‘…we worked on our quilt blocks – working the names. I took three blocks home.’

More often they made a quilt for someone in the community.  On February 8, 1957, she wrote, ‘I took a quilt up to Mrs. C. from R. Cross.’ 

In 1954, the group worked on a ‘flower garden quilt’, and the story of the quilt can be followed in the diary. 

The first step was to piece the quilt.  My great-aunt worked on this stage at home, from March 15, 1954 to March 23, 1954, sometimes with a friend.  On March 19, she even missed the Red Cross meeting to work on the quilt.  On March 23, she wrote, ‘I worked on R.C. flower garden quilt all day.  J.B. here in eve. we finished it.  ready to be quilted. very pretty quilt…’  

'flower garden quilt' made by my grandmother, my great-aunt's sister

The group began quilting the flower garden quilt on June 4, and finished it at a meeting three weeks later (June 25, 1954). My great-aunt brought the quilted quilt home to bind and had help with the binding from another woman (June 28, 1954).  On July 12, 1954, she wrote, ‘J. [and] M.D. called to see the flower garden quilt.’  Unfortunately, there is no record of who received the finished quilt. 

The ‘flower garden’ is a well-known heritage quilt pattern.  It is made up of many hexagonal pieces, laid out in a pattern of concentric circles.  I have two quilts made by my grandmother (my great-aunt’s sister) and one of these is a flower garden quilt.  The quilt is well-named since the final pattern resembles a garden full of bright and colourful flowers.  The individual pieces in my grandmother’s quilt are from diverse fabrics, likely recycled from remnants and old clothes. 

In 1957, the women made another flower garden quilt.  My great-aunt must have loved working on it, since on March 27, she records going down to the Red Cross rooms after a funeral and working on the quilt by herself.  On March 29, 1957, she wrote, ‘…I went to R.C. brought home the hosp. [hospital] flower garden quilt to bind.’   She finished the binding on April 3.

 Women still make quilts today, of course, either alone or as a group.  I have made lots of lap-sized quilts, best for me due to my short interest span! 

Have you ever made a quilt and did you work alone or with others?

my grandmother’s flower garden quilt – I love the variety of fabrics used

©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

February 24, 2012 at 6:47 am

8 Responses

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  1. Beautiful quilt. 🙂

    I have never made a quilt. Sewing is something I don’t really like to do, probably due to those home economics classes I was forced to take in middle school. I always had a hard time with the sewing projects.



    February 27, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    • Hi. I am no genious with a needle, but I love fabrics and therefore I have tried to be a needle-women. I have done little lap quilts because I can finish them relatively quickly. Jane


      jane tims

      February 28, 2012 at 6:08 pm

  2. I’m just starting my first king size quilt, which means there are LOTS of pieces on my living room floor! I always do the piecing on my own, but I must admit that I think fondly of having quilted my first one with a group of women (in 1973) as I slowly but surely quilt my current ones on my own.


    Robby Robin's Journey

    February 26, 2012 at 9:51 am

    • Hi. A daunting task but worth-while work. It will be beautiful when you finish. Perhaps you could do a post on the process! Jane


      jane tims

      February 27, 2012 at 6:44 am

  3. Your grandmother’s quilts are very pretty. It must have been comfy to sleep under one of your great-aunt’s handmade quilts. I never tried making a quilt but my aunt made lots of them, some of them lap-throw size…


    Barbara Rodgers

    February 24, 2012 at 11:12 am

    • Hi. My Mom made quilts too, one for each of her children and each of her grand-children, and probably a few more besides. She loved the ‘nine-patch’ pattern. Jane


      jane tims

      February 25, 2012 at 6:57 am

  4. Hi Jane, Lovely–the colors and craft and community. I haven’t made a quilt, but made a needlepoint picture when I was a young teacher. It hangs in this room.

    Prayer shawls are another wonderful ministry. I bought one with a note at a local shop.

    Blessings, Ellen


    Ellen Grace Olinger

    February 24, 2012 at 7:29 am

    • Hi Ellen. Sewing and all needle-craft seem to me to be so heart-felt. I think about the thoughts of women as they sew, or the conversations that flow across the quilt when women work together. Jane


      jane tims

      February 25, 2012 at 6:54 am

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