An Heirloom is a physical object saved and treasured by our ancestors and passed down for generations. We encounter many objects over a life time, saving some for pure enjoyment and others for sentimental reasons. Packed away and revisited – they conjurer up the emotions that made them special in the first place. Stories shared about the object give it life and meaning and become a means to share and document our lives with future generations. Revisiting the treasured objects of the deceased brings them back to us for a moment.
Quilts are familiar family heirlooms. They embody the love and devotion of the quilt maker. Antique quilts that have survived 50-100 years have done so because they were special; beyond all the time spent stitching and quilting, they had more meaning than a bed cover. Each one tells a story. Why was it made and for whom? Who has cared for it over the years?
I’d like to share the story of 3 heirloom quilts.
The Quake Quilt
The Quake Quilt, as I call it, is a quilt made by my Great Grandmother, Maude C. (Rumping) Rasmussen with the help of my Grandmother, Eleanor A. (Vennes) Owen probably in 1936. It has 30 appliquéd butterflies outlined with an embroidered blanket stitch. Several of the butterflies contain embroidered dates of earthquakes and aftershocks that took place in Helena, Montana in 1935.
Imagine Eleanor and Maude designing, choosing fabrics, sewing, embroidering and quilting this treasure, it must have been very satisfying and I am sure it deepened the bond between them. Eleanor and I crocheted a granny square afghan together in the 70’s; mailing yarn and completed squares to each other. It was great fun and a great memory.
Maude was living in Helena at the time, this is all I have of her memories of the quakes. They definitely made an impact on her life, memorialized in her quilting artwork. What extent of damage did she experience? The picture below in Eleanor’s scrapbook shows a friend’s house, leading me to believe Maude’s escaped extensive damage. I am eager to research more of Maude’s experience in the 1935 Helena earthquakes.
The Quake Quilt was given to my sister, who graciously gave it to me 30 some years ago. I displayed it for years, now it is safely packed away but treasured all the same.
The Lost/Found Quilt
In response to the September Genealogy Blog Party Lost&Found I am posting this beautiful quilt.
This is an heirloom quilt that has lost its story, how sad is that? I found this beautiful Double Wedding Ring quilt at an antique show in Denver this summer. The information provided by the seller was obvious: “Double Wedding Ring, 30’s fabrics in rings with white centers, hand pieced and hand quilted, orange gingham binding, white back – pieced, very little fading, some small stains, scalloped perimeter”
It is clear to me it was well-loved and cared for. It has me asking so many questions: Who made it? Was it made for a wedding or an anniversary? The double wedding ring pattern is not the easiest to make, it requires a lot of time and mindfulness – love. Was it made in Colorado where I bought it? Why was it sold and who sold/gave it away? With no documentation, can it ever find its way home again?
I really don’t know how to go about finding this quilt’s family, so for now, I have adopted it. I bought this on a day spent with my daughter-in-law, Jess, it will always remind me of our time together and the joy we shared ‘antiquing’. And so its story continues….
The Lucy J Brewer Quilt
This is a quilt made by my Great Grandmother, Lucinda Jane (Gee) Brewer. Is is an unfinished crazy quilt top approximately 36″x 45″. Lucinda (Lucy) died in 1930, I believe she made this exquisite little quilt around 1916. She embroidered her initials above the center flower and her husband’s (Charles W. Brewer) below. Charles died in 1915.
My father had this quilt for years, he framed and displayed it proudly. Many years ago, knowing of my passion for quilts, he gave it to me. Now, I proudly display it in my home, memorializing the love between by great grandparents.
Heirlooms document our history and our stories.
Hang on to the heirlooms, visit with and share them often.
What heirlooms do you have in your possession and what stories do they tell? Won’t you share them with me? I’d love to hear from you.