Gladys’ Quilt

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):

IMG_20160213_123846306_HDR (2) - Copy

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.IMG_20160213_123704342

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.



About Mary Jo Doig

At the turn of the millennium, I arrived at a cross-road that brought me to a splendid, if unforeseen place, almost as if I were a traveler on Robert Frost's The Road Less Traveled. I was single again, my three children were grown and building their lives, I'd experienced a health issue and was working on an improved lifestyle. I also ached to do two other things: (1) change my long human services career in upstate New York's Catskill Mountains, where winter seemed to be at least seven months out of every year, and (2) move to a warmer place in the universe. My decision: did I want to continue on the path I'd been following pretty much all my life, or could I gather my then-fragile courage and start life brand new somewhere else? These were scary thoughts for a single woman in her late 50s. Five hundred miles away, though, I fell in love with a new mountain range, Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, where I knew not a soul except my daughter who was attending college in the Shenandoah Valley, and I moved. I rented a tiny cabin on a mountain in the woods and lived there in solitude for two years, working in a new career by day and, when home, communing with the incredible natural beauty that surrounded me. There I also began to write my life stories, which were aching for release. I joined the Story Circle Network in early 2001, a rich place in cyberspace for women life writers, where I strengthened my written voice and began sharing my stories. I found so many opportunities to grow: 10 year facilitator for an online writing circle of women writers across the country; thirteen year editor of the "True Words from Real Women" section of the quarterly Journal; a reader and reviewer of women's memoirs for the SCN Book Review site; program chair for two Stories from the Heart national conferences in Austin, T. Presently I'm teaching Women's Life-Writing and Older Women's Legacy workshops in my part of the world in Central Virginia and facilitating the ongoing Circle of Memories Writing Circle (formerly an OWL workshop that continued on) at the Crozet Public Library. I am blessed with three wonderful children, a son and two daughters; a small, huge-hearted family; dear friends; my beagle Addie and cat Button. My hobbies include reading, writing, editing, cooking, gardening, quilting, knitting, biking, and simply being with the profound beauty of the mountains that embrace my small two acres in the Blue Ridge. The life stories I began writing in 2001 have grown deeper with time, re-writes, and personal growth. All these years later, I'm scheduled to publish my memoir, Stitching a Patchwork Life, in 2018.
This entry was posted in Bovina Stories, Community, Family, Friendship, Gifts, Mystery, Quilts, Simplicity. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Gladys’ Quilt

  1. I am honored and blessed beyond words to receive this sweet, precious Friendship quilt. So many good, loving memories are crafted into each stitch. I remember well making my patch…at just 7 or 8 years old! And Grandma’s delighted eyes when she would share a memory, or two, about those who contributed.
    It is truly a treasure. Because of the love that binds all of us through it. Thank you! I love you!


    • Mary Jo Doig says:

      I love hearing your memories, Beth, and appreciate more than ever that the quilt is soon to be in your loving hands. When I look at the square you made, I think that for the young girl you were, you did an amazingly beautiful job. I love quilts as much as I love life stories. Both are rich with meaning that honors the person’s life in two entirely different dimensions. I wanted to record the story and photos before it moves to the next chapter of its life. xoxo


  2. Donna J. Weber says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I truly enjoy reading them. XOXO


    • Mary Jo Doig says:

      I love writing about the rich memories I have from living in Bovina, Donna. I have so many, as I know you do, too. It makes me happy that you also enjoy them and so nice to talk with you again, here. Thanks so much for visiting! Warmest wishes to you and yours! xoxo


  3. Mary Jo, this quilt tells a tangible story of women’s care for each other. Beautiful. Thank you for including us in your rich history.


  4. Mary Jo Doig says:

    I love your perspective, Linda. I’m glad you enjoyed your visit with Gladys’ Quilt.


  5. Absolutely beautiful – the quilt and the stories it embodies. Wonderful that you have the photos, and that you have shared all this. Thank you!


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