The Reading Room

If Grandma Could Quilt Today

With a treadle machine and foot power, cardboard templates, and many hours at the quilt frame, my Grandma perfected her talent of quilting. Each colorful bed quilt and creative and unique baby quilt sewed by her skilled hands without the modern day tools to today’s quilters. I often wonder what Grandma would think if she would be alive to quilt today?

Grandma told me stories about she learned to quilt by hand from her great aunt, since her mother had died when she only age 13. During those days, to quilt was a necessity for a young girl. Since my Grandma was the oldest child, the making of a quilt to keep the younger ones warm on those cold Pennsylvania winter nights was not a craft but survival.

Once married, an electric machine brought speed to the quilt process. Now Grandma learned to save even more time when constructing a block and learned to sew using the assembly line process. I remember her telling me how she so often, while trying to save thread, while chaining triangles, and butting the pairs of patches against each other, would overlap them. Her best friend became her stitch ripper! If Grandma would be here today, I would love to show her how to sew half square triangles. Not only could Grandma make triangles in half the time, but they would never overlap.

Grandma’s templates were always unique. Some were copied from the wrapping of her batting, others from her friends and fellow quilters, but the common component of all the templates were that they were cut by scissors from any type of cardboard Grandma could find. Her favorite quilt pattern, the Double Wedding Ring, was cut out from a discarded Tootsie Roll box. The interesting designs of each cardboard quilt template were not accurate when tracing or sewing. Though Grandma kept her sewing scissors extremely sharp and they were only used to cut quilt material, I can only imagine whether she would embrace the rotary cutter and ruler methods of today or lean towards the plastic templates and her trusty scissors to construct her quilt blocks. The rotary cutter has replaced the tedious one patch at-a-time cutting process, which helps to mass produce commonly used shapes in a quilt. Besides speed this method is highly accurate. Could Grandma have made the change to the modern world of today and quilt with the tools of today’s quilters?

Today the treadle machine sits idly in my living room, a beautiful reminder of days gone by. Those cardboard quilt pieces are securely and lovingly tucked away, yet one part of Grandma is here today. The soothing rhythm of hand quilting, which takes layers of material and with tiny stitches made by hand, creates a quilt, an heirloom for posterity.

Grandma, thank you for sharing your love of quilting. I wonder what you would say about the tools of the quilters today, if I would have the opportunity to share them with you. One thing is for certain, I know you would be pleased to see this granddaughter has learned the art and skill of the quilter.

Time to quilt!

By: Sharon Camp - Unique Baby Quilt Boutique