Grandma’s Quilts


My Grandma Currie was a prolific maker of things. Sewing, knitting, quilting, jewelry, stained glass, pottery, watercolor, drawing…there wasn’t much she didn’t do. My dad and his sisters recently finished sorting out my grandparents’ estate and I was lucky enough to get three quilts. The first is my favorite. I absolutely adore this quilt. My Aunt Sue says “I remember the farm quilt vaguely. It was a model for creating a series of appliques when I was a young teen.” Therefore the quilt was my grandmother’s design (not a surprise) and probably from the early 70’s.


My grandma used all sorts of different fabrics and embroidery stitches to give the blocks tons of personality. Some of the details were even terrycloth – probably cut from an old towel! The quilt has clearly been worn. My mom helped me to get out all of the discoloration and staining that was possible without damaging the old fabric. I have plans to re-attach and strengthen some of the parts that are falling apart, though I want to keep my intervention minimal as to help the quilt maintain its original charm.


The second quilt that I received was a bit more of a mystery. There were two similar basket quilts and one went to one of my cousins. The blocks are cotton and muslin in 30’s-40’s fabrics but the backing and batting is polyester. I’m guessing that my Grandma’s mother Belva originally made all of the blocks and my grandmother joined them and quilted the quilt entirely by hand.


The quilting is a bit unusual – it looks like perhaps it’s supposed to be fence posts between the baskets, or perhaps just an angular design. My mom and I talked about adding in more quilting to strengthen the quilt, but I have no interest in hand quilting and adding in machine quilting would dramatically change the quilt, so I’m going to keep it as is. It may not last forever (well, the backing will because it’s polyester!) but it will be used and loved and I think that’s more important in this case.


Finally, I was given an infant bed set consisting of a blanket and pillow sham. It’s pink silk and has birds quilted into it with some embroidered flowers for decoration. I don’t know much about it, but there was a hand-written note from my grandmother pinned onto it that I can’t find for the life of me right now, but I think it said that it was made by my grandmother’s aunt. I need to talk to my aunts to see if they can shed any more light on its history!


Do you have any family heirloom quilts? How do you balance senitmentality with putting them to good use?

Comments 8

  1. Hi Erin, I love these quilts and hand-made objects that pass from generation to generation. You are so lucky to have them. These objects that carry so much history give me a sense of continuity and it feels like you are carrying a piece of the maker with you. I don’t have any quilts but I have a hand knitted bed cover that passed to me from my grandmother. It was in a good condition so I did not have to change it at all. I agree with you that the repairs should be minimal and the original should be kept as much as possible.

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      How wonderful that you have a hand knit bedcover from your grandmother. I very much agree that such items carry history and a piece of their maker. I look forward to telling my daughter about her great grandmother through the quilt. My great grandmother (on my other side) hand crocheted bedspreads and I very much wish I had one!

  2. I don’t have heirloom quilts, it is not such an established tradition in the UK although you can find vintage quilts. American quilts are just amazing, I wish I owned one or had the patience to make one. I do have a patchwork quilt that I bought from a flea market in Devon and the girls I like to pick out our favourite fabrics from the hundreds of cotton hexagons in myriad colours and patterns. I think, like your baskets quilt, that the patchwork was done earlier from 50s/60s fabrics and then more recently sewn onto a polycotton backing. I have used it loads, particularly during the yurt-dwelling years when it looked fab on a Victorian cast-iron bed with brass knobs. xx

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      How fun that you’ve been able to incorporate an heirloom into your family memories, even if it the quilt wasn’t made in your family. And what a fun mental image I now have of your quilt on a cast-iron bed in a yurt!

  3. Lucky you! Those are lovely! Be sure to make fabric labels for them and put as much info as possible on them, even if it’s just the name of who you got it from and the date received. Those tiny details matter a generation or two from now. Honor grandma by hand-tacking those labels to the quilts so they stay with them. There are plenty of YouTube tutes to print fabric labels at home. Your post is another validation of why I label every quilt.

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      That’s a wonderful idea. Thanks so much for suggesting it. I fully understand the importance of labeling quilts I have made, but it hadn’t even crossed my (admittedly very sleep deprived mind) to label these quilts!

  4. I am in possession of two quilts that were made for my husband when he was born in 1949. One by his grandmother and one by an aunt. One is ‘redwork’ a series of children’s scenes embroidered in red floss onto muslin of some type. The other is various embroidered circus scenes that were a pattern ordered from the newspaper.

    Both will require some serious intervention if they are to last another generation and as we are about to become grandparents for the first time, I’d better get on with it!

    Thanks for sharing!

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      Wow! What wonderful treasures. Congratulations on becoming grandparents! How exciting to have another generation to share such wonderful quilts and their stories!

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