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A DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Those handmade quilts

© Another Day in the Country

There’s probably no tradition quite so familiar to country dwellers than handmade quilts passed down from one generation to another. 

In the “olden days” they were a necessity and often part of a bride’s trousseau as she ventured into a home of her own.

My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother made sure their grown-up children received quilts. My grandma Schubert not only made them for her children but her grandchildren as well.

As was the custom, I received mine at my wedding. Grandma had so many grandchildren that she’d given up on “piecing” a quilt top. This one was lime green taffeta, complete with a yellow flannel backing and a wool batt saved from Grandpa’s sheep.

This warm quilt never really achieved its potential because it was a slippery business. No self-respecting bedspread could compete with its slick loftiness and the bright lime green just never went with any color scheme, so the quilt lived in a trunk.

In 1963, my young husband and I moved to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Our friends said, “You are moving to Paradise,” because it was such a picturesque place, nestled in a mountain valley. Steamboat was still a small town in those days — not the ski resort mecca that it’s become — and there were very few rental houses available.

We finally settled on temporary quarters in a little shack of a place on the wrong side of the tracks while we hunted for more suitable housing. Meanwhile, we didn’t know anyone, had no friends in town, no yard to mow — the neighbors next door had a goat with free reign and she took care of anything green and growing. I needed something to do.

One day at the grocery store I spied a magazine with a beautiful fall-colored quilt on the cover. Here was a project I could make — a handmade quilt!

I bought the magazine, with instructions for  six colors of cotton fabric to be ripped into 2 inch strips, cut into random lengths, and then sewed back together in a random pattern to make a quilt top for a double bed.

Somewhere along the line as I stitched a zillion pieces of cloth back together, it dawned on me that each of these little swatches would need to be hand-stitched around — quilted!

“So this was why grandma had chosen one big piece of taffeta for a “tied” quilt top.”

I did get the double-bed sized quilt top pieced together; but then we moved to a bigger house, bought a queen-sized bed, and our first child was born. There was no time to even think about a double-bed quilt top in need of completion. It, too, went into the trunk.

Several decades later, that quilt top was still in the trunk. When I came back to live in Ramona in 2000, I pulled out that quilt top and brought it along.

“Maybe I’ll have time to finally finish this quilt,” I said to myself. That never happened.

This past summer, my grandson got his first semi-adult furniture in his bedroom — a desk, dresser, bookcase. twin bed arrangement in need of assembly. It was fun to be part of furnishing and decorating his room. Jana bought two different but matching sets of sheets for the bed and said, “Mom, how about making a duvet to cover his down quilt out of these top sheets? He doesn’t like getting tangled in top sheets, anyhow.”

So I did it! When I got back to Ramona, what should I run into, yet again, but that vintage quilt top I’d started 55 years ago and had never finished. Believe me, I’d tried to find some use for it but had been thwarted at every turn. It was too small for any beds we had. It was hard to find matching fabric. It was the wrong shape for even a tablecloth since my table is round.

What could this be used for?

“I can’t believe you’re still dragging that around,” my sister said. “The colors are rather garish.”

She was right! I was about to give up on this fabric assemblage of fall colors and it ever having any useful outcome.  And then I remembered Dagfinnr’s new bed — dark brown furniture, cream colored walls we’d touched up. I texted my daughter with my idea. She concurred.

This past week I finished “machine quilting” that vintage quilt top and making it into a duvet — thanks to the top sheet of a bright red, twin size, flannel sheet set.

“It will work for Christmas,” I assured my daughter. “California isn’t Kansas but it can still get pretty chilly and won’t those bright red flannel sheets be fun to snuggle down under that handmade duvet quilt top?”

Actually, it’s quite beautiful.

I’ve come to believe that eventually everything makes sense and has its place of belonging — and may even prove useful — if we just hang in there and have a little patience on another day in the country.

Last modified Nov. 15, 2018

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