|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.30(h) x 1.20(d)|
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My Mother's Quilts
Devotions of Love, Legacy, Family, and Faith
By Ramona Richards
Worthy Publishing GroupCopyright © 2016 Ramona Richards
All rights reserved.
A Faded Pattern
She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
The fabric definitely dates to the 1830s or 1840s."
I watched my cousin Becky carefully run white-gloved hands over the vintage quilt, comparing the cloth to examples in one of her books on the history of fabrics. The faded quilt, tattered and worn around the edges, lay spread over the museum table. It doesn't look like much compared to modern quilts, with their brilliant colors and innovative patterns. The colors of the familiar Carolina Lily pattern have paled from bright red and green to orange and brown. The white background is now umber. It is smaller than recently made quilts, built for narrow mattresses of corn shucks or straw.
Becky paused over one square. "Here." She pointed. "That one only appeared in that decade. And the wool batting puts it pre-Civil War." The handwoven back places its construction in North Carolina, confirming the family stories of the young couple who trusted God with an unknown future on the other side of the mountains. It even comes with its own legend: In order to keep it from being confiscated by marauders and soldiers alike, it spent the Civil War buried in a trunk in the barn, along with some other valuables.
After the war, it wasn't used much, but it was passed down from one woman to the next. My grandmother would take it out each year, air it over an outside clothesline, then lovingly pack it away, sharing the age-old tales about the quilt as she did so. Stories of love, faith, and sacrifice, such as most families have dotting their past.
By the time my mother received it, it had deteriorated too much for restoration, so the family made the decision to wrap it in acid-free paper, in an equally acid-free box, and donate it to the St. Clair County (Alabama) Museum and Archives, where it's displayed occasionally, a marker of the area's history.
But it's far more than that. It's a faded symbol of something that never fades. While we cherish the Carolina Lily because it's a legacy of our handicraft, it's also a reminder that faith and family, and a belief that God will take care of us, endure in the same way: passed down to the next eneration.
Father, You have blessed Your children across thousands of years and shown them how to disciple and love their own. Guide me as I pass my faith to a new generation of believers. Amen.
One Woman's Trash
Bless all his skills, LORD, and be pleased with the work of his hands.
My mother held a distinct measure of pride in most of her quilts. After all, a lot of hours and hard work went into them. The one exception to this was a Dutch Doll quilt, which she'd made and presented to me on my eighteenth birthday. I had already been accepted into my college of choice, and she made the quilt for my dorm room bed. It was the first quilt she had made, when she was just beginning to quilt seriously again. It was an experiment of sorts. When she'd finished it a few months before, she'd been pleased with it, as it represented an accomplishment of a new hobby — and a new phase — in her life. As a first effort, it was quite good.
I adored that quilt. I used it as a bedspread, and eagerly pointed out to friends that the "dolls" on it had been fashioned from clothes I'd worn in high school. Mother had embellished each doll with embroidery, and the bright colors livened up the dorm room.
Problems arose, though, as Mother learned more about quilting and appropriate fabrics to use. She started spotting the flaws in the quilt, which aggravated her more and more every time I brought the quilt home for the summer. She'd made the dolls from double knit, whereas the rest of the cloth was bleached cotton. This is a no-no in quilting as the two fabrics wear and shrink at different rates. The stitching wasn't straight because she hadn't lined out the pattern properly. The embroidery was sloppy. In fact, the more she learned, the more problems she found with the Dutch Doll. She begged me to let her make me another one, stitched from her newly acquired information, but I refused. I wanted that one. And I used it until the stitching wore out.
When finally a portion of it needed to be requilted, she tried one last time to talk me into another quilt. I finally told her, "I don't care about the craft of quilting. I care that you made this especially for me. That you made it from my old clothes, the same clothes you'd sewn for me in high school. For me, it's not about the quilting. It's about the quilt and the fact that you made it."
She relented and completely repaired a quadrant of the quilt even though she felt it was trash. I didn't. To me, it was treasure.
I still own that quilt. It reminds me that love may see the flaws in others, but those flaws don't matter. Love doesn't focus on the ways in which people do wrong, or on the mistakes they make. I think of all the lessons my mother learned and passed on to me while she was pursuing the craft of quilting, I'm encouraged to remember that though I'm not — and have never been — perfect, God loves me anyway.
My Dutch Doll quilt serves as a good reminder to me to look at others through the eyes of love. When I'm tempted to pick at and try to fix someone's flaws and imperfections, my mother's imperfect-but-treasured quilt reminds me that God sees us all as whole people, and that He wants us to experience the love and joy He felt when He created us.
And I believe that if we share with others what we've learned since the beginning of our walk of faith — in spite of or perhaps because of our imperfections — He'll be pleased with our handiwork, whatever shape it takes.
Lord, help me see the "whole" of the people around me, not just the flaws or ripped seams. Help me remember that they, too, are Your children and beloved by You, just as I am. Amen.
In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas). Her life overflowed with good works and compassionate acts on behalf of those in need.
Acts 9:36 CEB
The whole neighborhood called her Granny Bowlin, whether she was kin or not. She made an impression on everyone she knew, the young and the old, with her godly spirit and sweet nature. She was a quiltmaker out of necessity, as were most of the women of her generation, but her passion for quilting extended far beyond what was needed. She welcomed neighbors and new babies alike with one of her quilts. A lot of young couples called the street where she lived home in the late 1950s, folks who were just starting out in life and struggling to make ends meet. Men like my father often hitchhiked to work because owning a car cost too much. Everyone struggled, doing the best they could for their families. Granny, whose family had long since moved away, did what she could to help.
My brother and I both benefited from Granny Bowlin's generosity, although in slightly different ways. He received a quilt that he still treasures and holds dear. I received a quilt top, a turtle quilt, its whimsical blocks the perfect gift for an active child. I received it unfinished, because we moved away before Granny could quilt it with the same fine stitches as she did my brother's. In hopes of bettering things for his family, Daddy had taken a new job, which transferred us to a new city. Mother, caught up with two children and a new life among strangers, stored the turtles away in her cedar chest, set aside like so many other aspects of our former home.
And there it stayed until 1980, when my father's mother came to stay with us for a while. Grandmother Omie was loving, quick-witted, and active, but there wasn't much to do except read the Bible, which she did a lot. Home for the summer, I talked to her a lot about family and faith, but our conversations weren't enough to keep her engaged.
Then my mother suggested she quilt the turtles. Grandmother Omie embraced this — she'd known Granny Bowlin well, and she adored the idea of honoring her friend this way after all these years.
Quilting connected two women across a generation to each other and our family through a gift borne of love and generosity. Granny's original gift spread much further than she could have imagined. Like Dorcas, their good works reached far beyond their lifetimes. Sometimes, in a spirit of humility, we downplay the value of our works. But those around us will remember and cherish them.
Lord, keep me mindful of those around me whose works and generosity have blessed their families and friends. Help me repay them with love and support. Amen.
Passing It Along
Let all that you do be done with love.
1 Corinthians 16:14 NKJV
My dad was only fourteen when his grandmother, Terah Maude Pope, died in 1940. The baby of his immediate family and the youngest of Terah's grandchildren, Daddy was towheaded and precocious, a favorite among relatives and neighbors alike. As a result, he'd often receive only an amused scolding for transgressions where his older siblings would have received more punishment. Cotton, his nickname since childhood because of his white-blond curls, ran freely through the small mountain community where he grew up, charming everyone with his wit and openness, his grandmother included.
The few pictures we have of Terah show a stern woman in modest clothing. But she cherished her family, holding them close. She made each one of the grandchildren a quilt, most of them like the one she stitched for my dad — intricate and colorful tops backed by feed sack muslin and filled with hand-carded cotton. The thread she used may have been handspun as well. Unlike other quilts we have from that era, this one is quilted with even and tiny stitches of dark thread.
Another reason I know Terah wasn't as solemn as the pictures is that all of the Popes love pranks and grand stories. Daddy and his siblings were no exception, and family gatherings always turned into a round-robin of stories, each one more outrageous than the last, all geared to exhaust everyone with laughter. Daddy's mom, who passed Terah's quilt to my mother, would try desperately to keep the stories modest and under control and would try to caution them. She'd wag a hand and scold, "Now, now, boys!" between bouts of laughter. It never worked. Storytelling was in their blood.
Terah's story, however, is in her quilt: a tale of hard work, frugality, and hardship. Her precise stitches tell us how insistent she was on doing things right. The intricacy of her quilt top reveals an artistic side. The squares of the Postage Stamp quilt are two inches across, conveying her willingness to spend hours collecting, clipping, and preparing a quilt that would last generations to come. To Terah, her grandson was worth the effort.
Like Terah, we never know if anything we do will have a lasting impact. Our world these days sometimes feels temporary, as if nothing will last for our children or grandchildren. But Scripture tells us that shouldn't be our concern. Our focus instead should be on acting out of love. When we hold those we love close, acting only for their benefit, God will take care of the rest.
Lord, help me maintain my focus on love, on working for those I care for, to show them Your way, no matter what I do. Amen.
What Goes Around
TRIP AROUND THE WORLD
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11 ESV
My memories of Mother's quilting date only back to the 1970s, after she took several sewing classes at a local adult education center. Her nest was almost empty, and bags of fabric began taking over any spare corner. She set up a quilting frame in our bonus room, and what started as a casual hobby became a passion.
But I later discovered that was not Mother's first quilting experience. After she married in 1947, she quit work to keep house for my dad ... which consisted mainly of boredom. They lived in a garage apartment comprised of one small bedroom and a kitchen that she described as being "too small to swing a cat in." My mother always kept a spotless house, but this one took her about an hour a day to clean.
They didn't have much money, and post-war scarcities still reigned. To pass the time, Mother read long tomes like Lloyd C. Douglas's The Robe and Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, or visited with neighbors, which included her mother-in-law, my grandmother, Omie. They talked about everything — life, children, housekeeping, cooking, religion. Grandmother read the entire Bible at least once a year, and her King James Version was an old friend. Mother had been raised Southern Baptist, and Grandmother Omie was Nazarene; they had some intriguing chats. In the early years of her marriage, Mother was closer to her mother-in-law than she was to her own mom.
So it was that Grandmother Omie challenged her to make a new quilt for the marriage bed. Not an easy task, but Mother took it on. She'd grown up with two women, her mother and grandmother, who knew needlecraft inside and out, but Mother wanted to do this on her own. For months, she gathered feed and flour sacks from neighbors, cutting some of them into the strips that would become the Trip Around the World; the rest were bleached for the backing. She hand-carded the cotton batting from bolls picked on her father's farm. The stitching isn't even and the square corners don't always match up evenly, but it was sewn with love and helped create a lifelong bond with her mother-in-law. She also truly enjoyed the task, expressing her creativity with her needle.
Mother didn't quilt again for almost thirty years. My dad bought a truck, and she started traveling with him on his long hauls. Then my brother was born, and life began a long stretch of his frequent asthma attacks, moves to new cities, and another child. But that Trip Around the World quilt had planted a seed, and when her home was empty once again, she returned to her first love.
Scripture tells us that we never know what God has in store for our lives but that He'll prepare us for the journey. He plants people, tasks, and challenges before us with long-lasting impacts. When we follow His leading, God will guide us into an unknown future with a knowing hand.
Lord, I trust You. Help me remember that You have the best in mind for me, no matter the trials I must face to get there. Amen
The Colors of the Past
Read up on what happened before you were born; dig into the past, understand your roots. Ask your parents what it was like before you were born; ask the old-ones, they'll tell you a thing or two.
Deuteronomy 32:7 MSG
The inferno of an Alabama summer can prepare a teenage girl for almost anything. Staying with my grandmother Ila felt a lot like camping. Her house had no air-conditioning, and window fans just moved the hot air from one room to another, doing little to cool the house until after dark. Even in the early '70s, she still had no inside bathroom, and the only running water was in the kitchen. Baths took place in large galvanized tubs, and, yes, I've done laundry in a wringer washer filled by buckets.
Because of the heat, we did as much of the gardening, cooking, and housework as possible in the early morning or late afternoon. We spent the scorching midday breaking beans, shucking corn ... or quilting. Grandmother Ila set up a full-sized quilt frame in the living room, the coolest room in the house, and set an oscillating fan underneath. I would sometimes sit underneath the quilt as if it were a fort, letting the fan blow over me as I read comic books and novels from the local drugstore.
Whatever we were doing, we talked about faith and family. Who was doing well; who had messed up. How things used to be. I learned that her mother-in-law had been a midwife, and that her grandfather had been a soldier in the Civil War and a justice of the peace. A devout Southern Baptist, my grandmother had definite opinions about religion, which influenced me for years to come. She taught me to ask whatever questions I had about Jesus — and where to find the answers in Scripture.
She took on sewing for other folks, saving any fabric that was left over for quilts, handkerchiefs, place mats, and the like. Her mind never stopped coming up with ideas for her needle.
Excerpted from My Mother's Quilts by Ramona Richards. Copyright © 2016 Ramona Richards. Excerpted by permission of Worthy Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsA Note to the Reader,
A Faded Pattern Carolina Lily,
One Woman's Trash Dutch Doll,
Welcoming Newcomers Turtle,
Passing It Along Postage Stamp,
What Goes Around Trip Around the World,
The Colors of the Past Dresden Plate,
Starting a New Home Tulip,
A Symbol of Hope Ohio Star,
Offhand Comments Churn Dash,
That Which Does Not Fade Twenty-Five Patch,
Comforting the Sick Bleeding Hearts,
Center of the Home Puzzle,
Brighter Colors Dutch Rose,
Family Ties Sampler,
A Distant Vision Cathedral Window,
Staying True Ribbon,
Changing Courses Baltimore Appliqué,
The Parts Come Together Rosette Basket,
Different Shades of One Color Diamond Compass,
Joy in the Making Hearts in Bloom,
Pink Is the Color Amish Diamond,
Strength in the Gathering Friendship,
Separation from Family Ocean Waves,
A Lap of Love Squares in Squares,
Repairing the Damage Dutch Doll,
Stretching Ourselves Fleur-de-lis Appliqué,
Blending Traditions Sampler,
The Need for Practicality Bleeding Hearts,
The Mark of Creativity Mother's Own,
The Influence of the Past Turtle,
Preserving Our Past Carolina Lily,
A Legacy of Needlework Butterfly Handkerchief,
Playing Favorites Churn Dash,
Dual Purposes Storm at Sea,
Separate Hearts Tulip,
From Many into One Postage Stamp,
Meant to Be Used Baltimore Appliqué,
The Value of Family History Twenty-Five Patch,
For the Future Dutch Rose,
Relying on Community Friendship,
The Long Haul Cathedral Window,
All We Need Is a Bonnet Dresden Plate,
An Artistic Display Ocean Waves,
The Rewards of Perseverance Fleur-de-lis Appliqué,
Inventive Necessity Trip Around the World,
A Reminder of Our Faith Ohio Star,
From Crib to Bed to Wall Amish Diamond,
A Simple Nature Squares in Squares,
The Comfort of Warmth Mother's Own,
Day to Day The Log Cabin,
One More Time Bow Tie,
Whatever Is Old Ribbon,
When Women Convene Carolina Lily,
The Specialness of Everyday Life Rosette Basket,
A Stitch of Healing Diamond Compass,
Piecing a New Whole Hearts in Bloom,
That Which Survives Butterfly Handkerchief,
Beyond the Bedroom Puzzle,
A Solace in Mourning Storm at Sea,
Bringing It Home Bow Tie,