Thursday, June 19, 2014

Remembering Ruby

A Few Years back..........our quilt club showed three of my grandmother's quilts at our annual Antique Quilts Show during Deutschesfest, our fall festival.

Fronen Steppdecker is the name and theme of our quilt guild. The title, in German, describes how we all feel about quilting, I think. Can you translate it and tell me if you feel the same way about quilting?

My grandmother, Ruby, loved to quilt and was a "complete" hand quilter. Each of the three quilts I'm showing here was made by hand from start to finish.

This Dresden Plate, the most distressed of the three, was made during the late 1950's from scraps saved from Ruby's aprons. Ruby had only three dresses; but about 25 aprons! She never wore slacks. Never. She was born in Minnesota, Olmsted County, in 1889. She died in Spokane, WA, in 1989. She was an active homemaker until her mid 90's.

A lot of quilts have been sewn on machines like this classic Singer. Ruby had a White treadle machine to which my mother had helped attach an electric motor. Ruby, who never drove an automobile, either, would have nothing to do with it. "Too fast", she said, "and it doesn't sew straight."

Consequently, every piece was cut by hand and stitched by hand and quilted by hand. She collected the print scraps from the aprons and matched them with solid pieces of fabric she bought at the local "5 and 10 cent store" (probably Woolworth's - anyone remember Woolworth's?)

Ruby was an artist, truly, as were so many women of her generation.

You see, here, her stitches haven't given up, but the fabrics have.

She would lay the appliqued blocks out on her bed and fuss with them until she had them arranged the way she liked. Mother, often, was called in to help shift things because, we all know how back-breaking it is working over a bed, arranging the blocks! I witnessed the scene several times as a youngster.

Ruby loved a scalloped border and I marveled, way back then at this one, which always reminded me of a circus tent, somehow. Very cheerful and banner-like.

Well, she loved color, too. Don't we all? Isn't a trip to the quilt shop really about filling our eyes, hearts and heads with color to take us through some of the drabber phases of our lives?

This was Ruby's version of Grandmother's Flower Garden. My daughter and I repaired this quilt before the show. We are currently working on repairing the Dresden Plate and will show you our progress on that one as we go along.

This quilt was made during the 1960's. That's certainly a 60's color, that lime green, isn't it?

Ruby made this quilt for my mother, who loved the color, turquoise. Can you see where we repaired this part of the quilt?

Such vibrant colors for a woman born in the Victorian age.

We didn't repair this block then and haven't, yet. There's something kind of authentic about the wear the quilt is showing. I remember this quilt in my mother's room as I was growing up.

More wear and tear and a mark of some sort. We don't launder these lovelies, anymore. Just spot clean, air them and store them in pillow cases in a closet.


I haven't any close ups of this one, The Double Wedding Ring. Always, the scalloped edge. This quilt pattern is so wonderful. No wonder it was so popular through the years. Tell me about your heirlooms, please, when you have a minute to stop and share with us.

Remembering you, Gammy!


  1. The double wedding ring is a beauty - with those colours maybe your Granny was already a "modern quilter" (I still think ther eis no such thing).

    I also wanted to say you did a marvelous job restoring the flower garden - you can see clearly which patches are new, but if you look from afar they blend in - that's not easy to do. With restoration it's all about preserving (even signs of wear and tear) and not makign something look "new" again ...

    I had to think long and hard about "Fronen Steppdecker" that is some seriously old German, but I figured it out ... My granny (now 85) still wears aprons except when she goes "out" (that is church, doctors apointments) then she absolutely needs a vest, because really it's just like a short fancy apron .... I am regularly asked to change the bias tape on them, sew on missing buttons ...

    1. I think she was before her time. She always said she didn't care if she lived a long life. Her father lived to be 100 years old. I think she really enjoyed her long life, though. Her yard, a large one, was the envy of the neighborhood. Not a weed. Thanks for your comments. I can see your granny was much like mine. The meaning of Fronen Steppedecker is something like "indulging in hand work". Some translations characterize "indulging" as "obesessing". I like the obsessing best. Ha.

  2. Wow what an amazing woman your "Gammy" was. Her quilts are just beautiful. Personally I like the worn look - it shows they were used and loved. I don't have any heirlooms but I do like creating them for future generations. What amazing treasures xx

    1. Well said! Aren't we all? Thanks for your kind and clever words. Just what we need to hear.

  3. So wonderful to see these quilts and to hear the stories about them - thanks for sharing.

    1. It's fun to take a trip back every once in a while to see where we are now, and where we've come from. I never thought I'd quilt, honestly. It looked too time-consuming. Now that I have time, it doesn't feel that way at all. And we have such wonderful fabrics. Aren't we lucky?

  4. Your Grandma Ruby sounds so much like my Grandma Gertie, she too did all her beautiful quilts by hand and was so particular! She had the same sewing motor! (She actually taught me how to sew on it! And when I did it wrong, she insisted I tear it out and redo She never drove either! She made a beautiful turquoise and white (small little blocks) full size quilt for me..(all hand done)My daughter now has it. What amazing ladies they were!


    1. I too learned to quilt on a Singer treadle home ec class. Being a baby boomer, we were constantly dealing with overly crowded conditions and equipment shortages. Machines that had to be mothballed, were brought into use again. We were lucky to have home economics. Girls, today, aren't getting that, unless they choose to find it on the internet or other media. So sad. My first home ec teacher taught me to wash dishes, sew an apron, make breakfast, lunch and dinner and clean house. I was ready for anything, sort of. Thanks for stopping by and chatting. Were you named for your grandma?

  5. My goodness! What a wonderful quilter/woman your grandmother was, Kathie! I love the name of your guild - have no idea what it means, but for me it would be doing the happy dance quilting! I marvel at the colors she used and loved and loved, too! She would be so proud to know that you and your daugther are restoring her quilts to live, hopefully, another 100 years!


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