A 60 Year UFO!

My granny made quilts entirely by hand.  I watched her piecing, sitting by the window where the light was best.  I played under the quilt frame in the “front room” when a top was finished.  I never knew her to have friends over to help with the quilting; she did it all herself.  She tried to teach me to piece; the main thing I recall is the idea of loading multiple tiny stitches on the needle before drawing the thread through.  I remember a lot of her fabrics and was surprised to find these identical-appearing reproduction fabrics some years ago:

The darkest blue is an Aunt Grace print; I don’t know about the others

Based on the way her life went, I suspect Granny started quilting in the 1930s.  She would have stopped around 1960.  When Mother closed her house in the 1990s, I inherited Granny’s unfinished final quilt, which would mean Mother had it in storage for about 30 years, and I’ve had it about 30 years now.  In a closet.  In 5 different houses in which we’ve lived during that time.  Yikes.

vintage quilt

Some of the pieces I inherited

I’ve caught up with a LOT of UFOs during quarantine, and decided it was finally time to do something with Granny’s project. By my calculation this is about a 60 year UFO.

My guess from the sections already assembled is that Granny was working on Boston Commons.  I have a Boston Commons quilt she made, and didn’t want to mix reproduction fabrics with her fabrics to complete this one.  Therefore, I checked the size of her pieces and started picking them apart.  Then came the fun.

Granny used a seam allowance of LESS THAN a quarter inch, and finger pressed her seams open

Her stitches were so tiny that they are quite difficult to see and pick out, AND she backstitched at the beginning and end of each seam!  I pressed one seam closed, and when I blew the picture up to show the stitches I discovered holes from a different needle in the yellow fabric–the fabric was from a feed sack!  (Grandpa was a farmer.)

Her stitches were so tiny that they are very difficult to pick out! And she backstitched at the beginning and end of each seam!!!

Granny’s squares measure about 2-3/4 inches unfinished, and, as you may be able to see below, she trimmed off a little corner from each piece after she stitched the seam.  I guess she was determined to decrease bulk when she quilted it by hand!

Once I got a few pieces taken apart, I treated them with Terial Magic in the hope of avoiding further fraying.  I cut the squares down to 2-1/2″ to square them up and get rid of ragged edges, and I’m ready to put some of them together.  The plan is to make them into Arkansas Crossroads:

I tried out two yellows for background and decided on the lighter one, which is on order.

The first block of my Arkansas Crossroads

This may take a while to complete, but that will give me time to look for a “longest UFO” contest in which to enter it 😀

17 thoughts on “A 60 Year UFO!

  1. Though I’m not a fan of vintage fabrics, I too have much of my Grandmother’s vintage fabrics. They were found last year in my grandparents’ now-abandoned farmhouse in Ohio. Where did your grandparents live? The first big wave of fabrics and four quilt tops, were given to a quilter-friend in Texas who has already begun using them to make quilt blocks. Though, I kept one of the quilt tops and recently finished hand quilting it. Unfortunately, my grandmother wasn’t nearly as precise a piecer as yours. 🙂 Lots of long running stitches had come loose, and nothing was on the square. It definitely has wonky blocks! The second wave of fabrics came to me (along with a whole shoebox of cut squares) and I’ve been soaking/cleaning the fabrics and making them into items to give to my eight cousins (and spouses) as keepsakes. So far I’ve made 12″ Dresden Plate quilts; string-pieced zipper pouches; Bowl Buddies; and hot pads. Next up are mug rugs. It’s not as fun to work with vintage fabrics as it is to work with modern prints and solids, but when I see an occasional piece of fabric from which an armhole has been cut (Grandma always wore an apron) I appreciate the sentimental value of them. Your pictures of the fabrics you have could be mine. If only I knew more about where they came from (likely, feedsacks), and what Grandma meant to do with them. I’ll be watching your progress.

  2. Wow! I love the story of you being under the quilting frame as a kid – quilting has been part of your life a long time. That is awesome you are taking on this UFO! I think you selected a great pattern and the yellow setting will be wonderful!

  3. This is wonderful!
    When something speaks: “Now is the time” it **always** comes together – physically, emotionally and spiritually. Enjoy your journey back into Granny’s world as you make this your own – which is what lineage is all about IMHO.
    BTW- what extraordinary meticulous attention to detail in piecing your Granny had. The things that are unseen but are foundational to producing a quality finished piece, a type of integrity in creation that is often under-rated.

  4. I loved reading this story, and applaud you for finishing up her quilt. I heartily concur on the block you’ve chosen, and I think this will be a wonderful quilt when finished. Keep up the good work!

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