By Ruthann Held Wike
I have a quilt on my bed that my mother (bless her heart) pieced together, probably at least 50 if not 60 years ago, or longer. It is so special to me, not only because my mother, God rest her soul, pieced it together, but because of what it is made from.
A little background. My mother grew up during the Great Depression. The family didn’t have a lot of material things but they had lots of love and the important things in life, enough so they didn’t miss material things.
They used what they had, and reused everything that could be reused.
One example I remember is that my grandmother, my MaParker, had a large ball of string in her basement. Anytime she had a piece of string, it got added to that ball. My mother learned from her mother. String got saved. Tin foil didn’t get thrown away until it was torn or badly burned. I can remember my mother using the waxed paper that was inside cereal boxes. She would open the seams and use it to put homemade cookies on after they came out of the oven. After it was reused, then it was thrown away. Newspapers were saved. The wax paper was put on an old newspaper on the table to put the cookies on to cool. The Sunday Comics, the colored Funny papers, were recycled as wrapping paper at Christmas. No need for store bought wrapping paper.
In those days, mom made all her own clothes and she made clothes for myself and my older sister. It was always so much fun to go to the fabric store in Washington Square Mall in Evansville, IN. It was the FIRST mall constructed in Indiana, by the way. I think that the fabric store there was called “Mary Lester.” We also got lots of our fabric and patterns at “Weil’s” in Rockport, IN.
I always loved looking at the big pattern books to see what new styles might be there. Then, too, it was great to pick out the patterns I liked and then trying to find the perfect fabric. Or sometime I would find a fabric that I loved and then go looking through those big pattern books for a pattern to use!
In making clothes, besides having some beautiful new clothing to wear, there were always scraps left over. The larger scraps, those that were more than tiny strips, were always saved. We had a big box where all the remnants of unused fabric was kept. The next time we wanted something, the first thing we would do was go through the scraps to see if there was enough of one of the remnants to make that item. Some of the small pieces went to make clothes for my young nieces or smaller pieces to make doll clothes.
When the box of scraps got full, mom would start making strips to use for a quilt. Her quilts were not the ones that use fancy patterns and have fancy names. They just used left over fabric and kept people warm. When she had amassed enough strips, she would take old magazine pages – using the Farmers Journal – and sew the fabric strips on the page diagonally. Then she would trim the excess material from the page so that all the blocks were the same size.
She used the paper pages to make all the blocks the same size, easily. Then she would tear the paper off the back. It was easy, since now it was “perforated.”
Once she had the blocks all made, she would lay four of them out together, with all the diagonal corners coming together, radiating outward. She might also match colors to coordinate. Then, she would sew them all together, continuing on until it was the perfect size.
These quilts are beautiful and mean so much to me. Every time I look at them, there is always a different fabric catching my eye. “I had a dress from that material.” “That one was my blouse.” “That one was a dress my mom wore to church.” “Oh yes, that one my sister, Alice, had a dress.” And on and on.
Always a different square holding my attention. Seeing the dresses on my dear departed mom. And on my sister. And myself. Thinking, “I wore that at church camp!” “That was a dress I had when I was a senior in High School.”
It is not only beautiful, in my eyes, to look at; on cold nights I can wrap myself up and stay warm in all the memories. Besides that, they serve as my bedspread, making my bed presentable during the day. How precious those memories are.
It’s not as good as being able to wrap my arms around my mother again, but . . . the sweet precious memories are, oh so good!
Ruthann Held Wike