Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Vintage Redwork Quilt Top

If you regularly read my blog posts, you know that back in late May, over Memorial Day weekend, my siblings and I met with our cousins at the Ohio farm that once belonged to our late uncle, and before him, our grandparents. 

The house hadn't been kept up, yet everything had been kept for decades. So it was our task, over three different visits to the farm, to go through everything - decide what to keep, what to pass on, what to donate, and what to toss on the burn pile.

Many textiles were unearthed, all of which were at least shown to me to ask how to handle them. Initially, I received a whole bunch of vintage scrap fabrics, likely belonging to our grandmother. Fabrics included four quilt tops (four UFOs!), all of which - except for one quilt top, and some of the fabrics - were sent to a friend in Austin, Texas. Another round of discovery unearthed a box of pieced four-patch blocks, and more scraps, all of which I kept. The last round revealed a round top, wood trunk full of very old books (written in German), very old infant clothing, and a large stack of hand-embroidered redwork blocks. (Links are to blog posts.) 

During a FaceTime chat with Melissa, another friend in Texas, she reviewed and acceptedwhat I wanted to offer her. I was thrilled to find a quilter who appreciates vintage fabrics more than I do. Even though these were family pieces, I knew Melissa would give them the care and attention they deserve. 

So, on Instagram, I watched as she turned these dirty old embroidered blocks into a clean, trimmed, and beautifully set quilt top. These are a few of her Instagram pictures.

You might imagine my surprise when one day in September, a parcel arrived for me with a note from Melissa.

She explained that she couldn't keep the embroidered blocks/quilt top because they are our family's heritage. Accompanying the quilt top was the extra fabric she'd bought and used for sashing. Honestly, I had tears in my eyes when I opened up the quilt top to see, in person, what she'd created. It's simply beautiful!
redwork quilt top, 57" X 57"

After emailing my cousins about Melissa's generosity, and having a lovely phone chat with Melissa to thank her for her thoughtfulness, my youngest cousin Karen, in Baltimore, Maryland, offered to be the keeper of the quilt top. Whether she has it finished (she isn't a quilter), or stores it as is, she knows the significance of the quilt top, and will preserve it. 

What's sad is that we really don't know who stitched the blocks. Since our grandmother was born in 1894, it's not likely her. But if this block was stitched in 1899, perhaps it was grandma's mother?

Is this great-grandma's now 122 year-old UFO? Very possibly. Doesn't that make you feel better about your own UFOs?

It's made me realize that I need to add notes, with dates and details, to the few UFOs I still have and will never finish. Perhaps decades from now a future great-grandchild will appreciate knowing who started them. Linda


  1. What a wonderful surprise and treasure. I value those kinds of family heirlooms and yet it's hard to know what to actually do with them. Your point about recording the facts of my own quilts and creative works is a great reminder to me. I've been terrible about ever labeling my quilts. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Your friend surely did justice to those precious quilt blocks, and I'm glad to hear that they will go to someone who will treasure them. I wonder if any of our ufos will still be around in 100 years, or even our finished quilts for that matter. Yes, I'm delinquent in the labeling department though there are only two or three left to do at this point - she said hopefully!

  3. What a treasure this is! I have a quilt that I believe was a collection of blocks from a church sewing circle. I believe my grandmother made one of the blocks as there is a block with the name Lena, which was her name, but I'm not sure it's actually her block. However, it has been passed down to my parents and now to me, so I am just going to believe that the block is actually something she embroidered.

  4. And the genealogist in the family will appreciate the stories that go with the items.

  5. What a lovely story Linda, and what a great friend you have in Melissa. Wouldn't it be great to know if your Great Grandma stitched them. I have it locked into my brain about the label. To me it's part of adding the binding. I know in the beginning I didn't do this, and it's really annoying when I find an old quilt, ( usually a wall hanging)that I've missed stitching a label on.

  6. How kind of Mellisa to return these glorious blocks to you, after cleaning and assembling then so beautifully.

  7. Beautiful story and those blocks are just lovely. How nice of Melissa to return them to your family.

  8. What a story and what a UFO!! Your story makes me want to finish some of the UFOs that have been lingering in the studio for one reason or another. . .

  9. What a treasure! I love rework and this looks perfect! And how generous of Melissa to finish it for you! Rather than leaving the UFO's unfinished, maybe you will be inspired to actually finish them and give them a home.

  10. Such a sweet story! Kind of excites me to think it was your great granny’s fingers that stitched all those blocks! Lesson learned…..label everything!

  11. What a precious gift from your friend. It's lovely!

  12. I have just one UFO from my grandmother, and I am working diligently to leave NO UFOs behind when I die. As if!

  13. I love this so much and what a heart of gold Melissa has. So very sweet and kind. You have an amazing treasure in both the quilt and Melissa's friendship.


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