Sunday, February 21, 2016

Layered Stories, Warmth for the future

Many stories lived in the past, and sadly died.  Quilts and furniture often are handed down, and maybe for a generation the story is told, but then it drifts away.

Double wedding ring quilt .. 1950's
Recently, I looked at my "Art Gecko" bed and realized that I, too, am guilty of carrying stories they might die away. Last year I bought a double wedding ring quilt at an art show, where I learned about quilt stories.  Inside a plastic bag attached with a safety pin, I found the story of the quilt itself.  The quilt sold in an estate at St. Paul's Episcopal Church,  and someone had the foresight to share a glimpse of the owner's life story.  These words broke my heart.       "Her name was Nira......She lived as an old maid since 1961."   I don't want to think her life lonely and sad, but it jolted me to think how our words label people.  Why did she own a double wedding ring quilt? Who gave her the quilt? These questions will go unanswered, but at least I can pass on a piece of Nira Ellen Smith's life story. 

I have several favorite quilts, but  my fragile baby quilt touches my heart the most.  This is an example of what I wrote, then placed in a plastic bag and pinned it to my quilt, so that the story will live on even when I'm gone. 

   Hand pieced cotton quilt made for Letty Stapp on her birth .. in Arcadia, CA by her paternal grandmother,...  This hand stitched squared pattern was used as a baby quilt, then stored for several decades. It is approx.. 50” x 40” trimmed in now frayed pink cotton; the rows create a pattern of solid color then a child’s playful cotton.  These colors now adorn my Art Gecko room. My grandmother, who pieced the quilt,  died a week after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963. My grandmother lived in Wichita at the time she made the quilt. As child and teenager I often displayed this quilt.  It did not, however, travel to college with me nor to Killeen, Texas... Upon my divorce in 1973 and with a two year child the quilt joined me, along with a red trimmed wedding ring quilt made by my daughter’s great grandmother Roberts.The baby quilt traveled with me as I moved from Oklahoma to Kansas.. My daughter now cares for her granny's quilts. After retirement we returned to Norman, Ok. The quilt is displayed on a twin bed in my “Art Gecko” room, where I write, dream, and play.  The colors of the quilt still, as they did in my childhood, soften me and keep my heart happy. (*Quilt story pieced together on  January 21, 2016, by Letty Stapp Watt.)

Stories are attached on inside corners. 
Once the story is written and attached to the quilt, the stories become layers of history, layers of lifestories, layers of memories, and layers of warmth as they once were. 

I still have my mother's crochet blankets to label, and I plan to write the story I know about one antique piece of furniture that has been handed down.  That story will go in a plastic bag, and I will tape it to the inside drawer.  

For information on Quilt Care and collecting antique quilts please visit this site:  Buckboard Quilts

What ways of sharing history are using in your homes?


  1. Letty--this story really touched my heart. I might as well be an Old Maid where my life's concerned. I had three sons, and as usual with sons they aren't interested in any of my treasures handed down to me through my family--their wives are even interested in the "goodies" I have. But since reading your story about your quilts I've decided that THIS is the year for me to document all the items I have and put that info in a three ring notebook with a picture of the item (plastic bags won't work well with a lot of my items). Thanks from making me thank about my treasures and finally decide to do something about their history.

    1. I'm so glad to read this Kelle. It felt like a heavy burden had been lifted from my shoulders when I finished writing those stories. Good luck, because someone, somewhere will retell your stories. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Letty, your blog has inspired me to do the same thing. I have two quilts that each of my grandmothers made. I am going to write a history about my grandmothers to attach to the quilts. I grew up 3 blocks from Grandmother Simpson, and some of the fabric in her quilt came from an aunt, Ada Simpson, who lived 2 blocks from me. Ada was a seamstress and made most of her clothes and I am sure she passed the left over fabrics to my Grandmother. I remember dresses that Ada wore when I look at the quilt So, I have a double reason to keep the story going. When I have needed comforting I have wrapped myself in one of the grandmother's quilts, and it is as if she has put her arms around me. asd

  3. You are right, many of these stories will be lost if not shared. June has three of the quilts in this picture, handed down from family. jb

  4. Loved your reminiscences! You inspire me to note/label a few things--usually not good to label people, but those old things, absolutely. mob

  5. Good read..thank you
    I have eight living grandchildren, and I am in the process of designating a quilt from each of my collection of quilts...made by my grandmother, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and others that we have inherited whose "maker" I know not, but whose heart is observable in the eye's view of the respective piece of art...

    belssings to you as you continue to enjoy and record these stories of "Letty's Quilts" pv

  6. Lovely! Thank you for sharing Layered Stories, Letty!
    My Nana, my step-father's mother, was a fact, for a number of years she was a member of a ladies' collectors club in South Bend Indiana. She collected a bit of everything...handkerchiefs, coins, dishes. When we lived in Metairie, La, she and her husband "Bootie" would stop by on their way to Florida for the winter and bring little treasures to each of us four grandkids. I used to believe the little tightly scripted notes describing each treasure and its history were created just for us kids. But when I has in high school we went to South Bend one summer and she showed me a bedroom in their little house that had dressers and a closet FULL of little boxes and things wrapped in tissue paper. Each little "treasure" had a note It as then I realized she proudly wrote the individual notes as she first packed her collections away.

    One little treasure I have passed along to my only grandson is a navy blue leatherette wallet my Daddy Bob laced together at summer camp one year when he was a boy, and gave to his mother. Nana's little note is still inside. It was written on the blank backside of an old Christmas card with poinsettias faded to orange. Written in a circle around the original descriptive note is her tiny script, even tighter as it was crowded around the border, indicating that her gift of three dollars she enclosed for me for Christmas were to be spent on something I wanted...a monetary gift enclosed within a young mother's prized treasure from her little boy.

    Think I'll start writing little notes. Msmiles

  7. I believe that pattern for your baby quilt is called "Trip Around the World." Google: trip around the world quilt images.
    How many quilts do you have on that bed? I see the Trip Around the World, a Sunbonnet Sue, the Double Wedding Ring and a that gorgeous one on the bottom of the bed (wish I knew the name of that pattern). Msmiles