Friday, October 1, 2010
Fish n Baskets Quilt: A family story
As many of you know my husband has ALS -- an incurable, untreatable, degenerative disease where 100 percent of the patients die. But his is slow progressing and he's doing marvelously right now with some assistive devices and a wife who refuses to allow him to die because he hasn't written his will, yet.
But now we're focusing on the fun stuff and forgetting disease.
Recently the fun and delight of fabric and quilts has come home to my house. In the 1980s Mom found a UFO that was passed on to her by her mother. It was/is a pieced basket quilt top.
Recently my 98 year old mother informed me that my 'Fish and Baskets' quilts that I've dearly loved for all of these years wasn't pieced by my grandmother, but was pieced by HER grandmother. So what I thought was probably made in the 1900s was most probably made in the 1800s. I'm taking a new look at this quilt and some quilt historians and appraisers are doing the same.
I believe I inherited Leah's dislike for ripping and redoing things. Instead of ripping and fixing, she tossed it into the 'later if ever' pile of items to be fixed or repaired or forgotten. I'm so glad she did. And I'm glad Mom is a packrat and did not throw out that 'rag' that she found among her mother's possessions. That little fish makes all the difference to us and endeared it to my two sons who were too old for 'blankets' and too young for girls at the time of the quilt's first appearance. They were the ones who named it the Fish and Baskets quilt based on a Sunday School lesson.
Not only did the quilt offer a sense of family, it habored its own little secret. I stumbled on it one evening when insomnia sent me searching for some herb tea. Times were tough, money in short supply and my husband had been a casualty of massive layoffs. I needed a sign that better times were around the corner, things could change for the better.
Moonlight streamed in the window highlighting the quilt, but it wasn't MY quilt. It was a geometric aberration with Grecian urn shapes and triangles. It was the sign I needed. I herded my sleepy men down stairs to see the quilt's transformation and we shared a moment that brought our family together in a lasting way.
Our Fish and Baskets quilt has been tucked away for the past few years. But when Mom dropped her bombshell on me, I had to take it out and look at it again. This time I'm asking the experts to date the fabrics. According to the family story the fabrics are leftovers from the shirts that were made for my grandmother's five brothers. So anyone who wants to wade in or comment about the quilt, fabrics, possible date, era, or the unusual pattern. Please do! Note the strange green fabric in photo number 4 -- this is that illusionary background that steps forward at night.
Also, one of the many essays I've written about this quilt (before finding out about Great Grandma's hand in the making of this) can be found at the Christian Science Monitor's archives. It is titled "A patchwork of warmth and hope -- in 10-inch squares."
I hope you enjoy my little Fish and Baskets quilt. I'd love to hear about your quilts and their stories!