Saturday, March 27, 2010

Maw's Quilt

My favorite quilts have always been the ones stitched from the colorful fabrics left after cutting patterns to sew dresses and shirts and aprons. Scrap quilts. Their brightness and variety thrill my soul. The rhythm of pattern and the plain background soothe my mind. And the intricacy of the prints and plaids pleases my eye. As a child I loved looking at the fabrics in a Dresden Plate quilt my mother had made. It became a game to see where the same fabric landed in different "plates." It's no wonder then that I love Maw's quilt. But that's not the only reason I love it.

Maw was Tressa (Froman) Doyle, my father's grandmother. She was the lady who took care of my dad after his mother died when he was but a month old. Perhaps Maw was Dad's comforter when his father remarried and he realized that his new stepmother would not love him. I don't know how close Dad's and Maw's relationship was but I know that they loved each other. I can feel her love for him in her quilt.

Dad was 21 when he left the farm in 1934 after his father, Gust Doyle, died of colon cancer. Maw died on March 27, 1936. Perhaps she made the quilt before my father left the farm. Perhaps, when he moved to Ohio, where some of his maternal aunts lived, he carried Maw's quilt with him. I like to imagine that the quilt spoke to my father of Maw's love for him. Considering that the quilt's pattern is a "Double Wedding Ring," she must have imagined a future time when he would marry and use this beautiful quilt on his and his wife's bed.

There is more to the history of this quilt. I don't remember my parents using this quilt but I know it's been washed and used because of the gentle wear that shows on some of the blocks. At some point in time my mother must have decided to take it out of use to protect and preserve it. I'm grateful she did or we wouldn't have it now. Years later, when my brother and sister and I cleaned out my parents' home, we had to decide who would get which possessions -- which were treasures we wanted, which did none of us want. Maw's quilt went to my brother for two reasons: he is the oldest and his wife had been a master quilter. It seemed the best new home for the quilt. He took good care of it.

When I went home earlier this month, my brother surprised me with the gift of Maw's quilt. I was -- I still am -- without words to describe how I feel about his generosity to entrust its care to me, as well as to have her quilt in my home. I am overwhelmed with emotion. Thank you, Bob.

I know that relatives who knew Maw said she had a difficult personality. But when I hold this quilt I know that inside her gruff exterior was a loving heart. I sense the love for my father that she stitched into every inch of the quilt.

Below are some photos of the charming printed fabrics Maw used. As I look at them I wonder if the prints were scraps from sewing dresses or aprons or curtains. Maybe she bought eight yards of the prints specifically for quilting. Or perhaps she traded fabrics with other ladies who quilted. I will probably never know. Not knowing does not in the least diminish the joy I feel when I look at Maw's quilt. I love Maw's quilt because she made it and gave it to my father.

Do you possess items that ancestors have made? Can you feel or sense their love?

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.


  1. I have always loved the 30's prints. You have a very well made, evenly stitched quilt. It was obviously made with love. For the age, it looks to be in great condition. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I love those prints, too, Tracy. I'm amazed at the tiny stitches. I've recently started hand quilting. It will be a long time till I can make the tiny stitches Maw made. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.

  3. How beautiful! My grandmother made her patchwork quilts from scraps from her own sewing plus scraps her children regularly brought her. It's very interesting to see the patterns close up, too.


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