Traditional quilts were made from scraps; scraps from dresses and aprons and blouses and shirts. Ready-made clothing bought in stores was expensive, custom-made clothing accommodating longer arms or any body shape other than what was considered ‘normal’ was just not available.
And then there were the people who had lived through the Great Depression where nothing was wasted.
My grandmother was one who was frugal; my aunt remembered her wedding cake as being very small due to rationing during World War II. Both of these ladies sewed; my grandmother repaired sewing machines in the day when sewing machines were not portable and women did not have men in their homes without their husbands being present.
My mother also sewed and she and her friend taught me and her friend’s daughter-Judy- sewing for a 4-H project. I still have that first project–a brown print apron. We learned to cut out dresses and blouses from cotton prints–polyester was just arriving in the stores, and saved all the scraps, rolling them up into little bundles and either tying them with a bit of selvedge or using a straight pin. These little bundles were then tossed into a bin; the idea was that these could be used to patch or repair–and of course rarely if ever were used for that purpose.
The quilt top I am working on now was pieced by my grandmother. There are fabrics in there that my mother must have given her–as I recognize two fabrics that were dresses I made for my first year in college; and dresses I remember my mother wearing–she liked black and white and gray fabrics.
This is a simple pattern; my grandmother loved vivid colors and assembled this top in her later years–still loving color and wild combinations. She bordered it with a bright kelly green to make it big enough for a bed. She had made me a quilt when I was 8–bordered in purple and tied with red yarn; the ‘batting’ was an old wool blanket; it was heavy and warm..a good thing for a Wisconsin winter in a home heated with a single pot-bellied stove.
And so I work on this quilt top, remembering my grandmother and my mother and our careful saving of all those scraps.