Today I’m wondering how old a quilt has to be before it is considered an heirloom, so checked my college Webster New World dictionary, which says: 1. A piece of personal property that goes to an heir along with an estate; hence, 2. any valuable or interesting possession handed down from generation to generation. Okay, then, by the second definition, Gladys’ quilt is an heirloom.
When I married Don and moved to Bovina in 1973 and learned how to make friendship quilts from Marilyn Gallant, the first quilt I made was for my treasure-of-a-mother-in-law, Gladys Doig.
Early nineteenth century traditional friendship quilts were comprised of patchwork squares with a light-colored patch in the center for each participating woman to sign her name. Here are several examples found at a Quaker Quilt website.
Through the decades these friendship patchwork patterns became highly varied, expanding widely to include several different early patchwork patterns. Examples are here.
By 1976, following Marilyn’s method, I gave large muslin squares (a 15” square—the largest I’ve ever used) to twenty friends and relatives who wanted to make squares for Gladys’ quilt. Each could complete the square in any way he/she wished: patchwork, embroidery design, needlepoint design, or fabric paint.
In time, the second most exciting part of the process occurred when the completed squares came back to me.
There was neighbor, Helen Burns’ lovely oak leaves (symbol of strength) and acorns (symbols for luck, prosperity, and growth):
Then the Henry and Doris Rabeler family block arrived, with their daughters’ and spouses names (right.)
Gladys and Ed’s daughter, Bea, sent the below stunning square from Colorado. The words, if you can’t make them out, say: God couldn’t be everywhere, so He created mothers.
The four grandchildren–Chip, Beth, Shawn, and Lisa–divided a square, designed and completed it (below, right), perhaps with some help from a parent.
The most exciting quilt-making process was assembling and simply hand-tying it, followed by gifting it to Gladys and Ed for Christmas, 1976. It remained on their bed through the decades. Gladys died at 69, just three years after receiving the quilt, but Ed remained in their home until he entered a care facility many years later. By then Don and I were no longer together, Don was remarried, and after his father died, he and Pattie moved into Gladys and Ed’s house where the quilt passed on to them. When Don died a few years after his father, Pattie handed the quilt on to my daughters, Polly and Susan.
Now they are delighted to pass the quilt onto Beth—Gladys and Ed’s first grandchild–who is receiving it in the same spirit. Forty years later, the quilt remains in good condition. I smile as I envision it in Beth’s home and wonder, then, to whom will it pass next?
Thus begins the next chapter of Gladys’ Quilt’s story.