Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Wonders of a Patchwork Quilt - Montreal, 1932

The following is the memory of an anonymous writer of their grandmother's amazing quilt.  Published in the Montreal Star (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) on July 23, 1932 it describes an amazing gigantic bed-quilt full of family memories - for better or worse.





Patchwork quilts are said to be very fashionable.  Dealers are searching remote country districts in an endeavor to find real old quilt such as gentlewomen used to sew long ago.

Will they ever unearth anything half so wonderful as grandma’s special quilt, which she used sometimes to show us on a Sunday afternoon, if we had been extra good?  We ranged in age from eleven years to two and a half, but that spectacle never failed to thrill us.

There was a ritual about the very unpacking.  The quilt, being too wonderful to use, spent its life embalmed in a large drawer in grandmama’s bedroom.

First, dust sheets were taken off and folded, and moth balls fell to the floor.  Then many sheets of newspaper were unwrapped, as a friend had advised grandmama that moths could not abide the ink of the printing house.  Next were several layers of tissue paper of a lovely violet hue; we children used to try to abstract one or two unnoticed, while pretending to help.




How shall I describe the glories of the quilt itself when we feasted our eyes on it finally?  It would have been too large for a modern bed, but fitted the immense French bedstead favored by grandmama and grandpapa.

The underside was a dark red silk, with a generous frill of the material surrounding it.  The silk was fine, yet firm, and elongated diamonds of tiny stitches kept it attached to the wadding inside, which was not wadding at all, but eiderdown, collected by one of our great-uncles during a world tour.

The upper side consisted of a regular pattern of light flowers embedded in squares of monstrous brightness.  The geometrical flowers were made of folded narrow ribbon in the palest shades of pink, blue, dram and green.  It took grandmama a year to complete two flowers and their setting.  Looking back on the colors of that quilt, I can only think that she must have been born color blind, but we children reveled in its jarring tones.  Pale pink, violet, and pillar-box red struck us as delightful. Probably grandmama never regarded the colors as colors; to her each piece of stuff, dull or gay, represented an important event in her life.




Sometimes she let us play a game.  One of us picked out a piece of stuff that took our fancy and she told us why it was there.  That small triangle of deep blue velvet decked with rosebuds was cut from Uncle Edward’s first walking frock, and the fact that he died at the age of four, beloved by all, gave the fragment a sentimental interest highly appreciated by his tiny nieces and nephews forty years later.

This handsome piece of violet brocade, worked with an exquisite pattern of hawthorn leaves was snipped from great-grandpapa’s fancy waistcoat, presented to him for heaven knows what by the B_____ Hunt.  It never occurred to any of us to ask grandmama why she spoilt an interesting garment simple to snip three inches off it for a spot of color on the quilt, nor do I suppose she could have told us if we had.

Three patches of cotton stuff, which might easily have been abstracted from a Union Jack, were a memorial to Albert and the twins, Caroline and Frederick.  They came to an untimely end at the seaside, where they untied a boat and put to sea, aged eight and five respectively.  Nothing has been heard of them since, and, as the currents there are notoriously dangerous and it is now 35 years ago, it is concluded that they were drowned.




Family tragedies, indeed, loom large in this quilt.  We all used to love a piece of golden brocade velvet in it, but only when I had grown up did I learn the reason why grandmama could never be persuaded to tell us the tale about it.  It was part of great-aunt Ann’s dance frock.  Aunt Ann was a beauty, and probably knew how well its yellow color suited her lovely complexion and velvet eyes.

Alas! Poor lady, she flirted with many good men but married a scoundrel, and died in dire poverty of ill-treatment, worry, and broken heart not two years later.  Grandpapa, incidentally, almost got imprisoned for life soon after for almost flogging to death the man who had treated his favorite sister so scurvily.

Uncle Tom’s Paisley snip of a tie is a brighter note, for he is still alive, a gay old bachelor of 78.  That tiny square of cream embroidery came from our mother’s christening robe.

Grandmama was always going to begin another quilt, to include dress remnants from our clothing and our father’s, but she never did.  Perhaps she remembered the fifteen years it had taken her to complete the other.


Sunday, July 10, 2022

Nancy Page - Jack of All Trades

Last week I shared the Snowflake Quilt pattern from the Nancy Page Quilt Club circa 1932.  Nancy Page was the pen name of the prolific Florence La Ganke.  The Nancy Page columns were mostly about quilts and other handcrafts but many other domestic topics were explored.  Here's one from 1934 about Lois, The Perfect Hostess.

It's hard to tell whether is Betty is a welcome guest or otherwise.  My favourite part is the list of accessories necessary for Betty's comfort.


Lois Proves She Knows How to Be a Perfect Hostess

    When Betty arrived to stay at Lois’ home for a week both Lois and Roger were a bit dubious as to how things would work out. “You know, Lois, you aren’t any too strong and with the two children you will find your hands more than full.  Don’t you want to get a maid while Betty is here.  We can afford it and it will make work easier.”

    “I don’t think I’ll try a maid because I would have to break her in and that might be hard work and then too the children might not get along with her.  We would feel strange and rather unsure of ourselves, too.  No, I think I’ll try to get the cleaning woman for an extra day and I may send Ann over to Nancy’s for a day or so.  But we’ll mange.”

    Lois found things went easily.  She did not try to put on airs, nor do things more elaborately while the guest was there.

    She did take Betty’s breakfast up to her room every morning.  This allowed Lois to get Ann dressed and breakfasted, to give John David his early breakfast without upsetting his routine.  She straightened up the living room and arranged the porch.  Then when Betty came downstairs at nine o’clock the day was well started.


    Lois was a thoughtful hostess in more ways than one.  Before Betty arrived she had prepared the guest room and seen to it that certain accessories were in the room.  She had aspirin, soda bicarbonate, sunburn lotion, dusting powder, absorbent gauze and cotton, safety pins, needles and thread, thimble, ink, stationery, new pen points, flashlight, two or three recent books, stamps, telegraph blanks, lambs’ wool shoe shiner, garment bag, hangers, extra blanket.  But more important than any of these accessories was her intention which she carried out, of keeping the family living simple and unaffected while her guest was there.

Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg Pennsylvania   July 11, 1934