This Rose Wreath quilt which I estimate dates to the 1870's was given to me by a lifelong friend and mentor, Gretta, who passed away a year ago at the age of 96. She gave it to me about six years ago and since then I've used it on my bed during the Christmas season.
I met Gretta at Girl Scout daycamp during the summer of 1958 -- she was my unit leader and we bonded quickly -- she knew so much about birds and plants and I was just beginning to stalk birds. She began to include me on many hiking and birding adventures and until the day she died, the first topic we discussed whenever we met or talked on the phone was what birds we were seeing.
So it was a great honor to be given this quilt that was made by her great-grandmother, Sara Elizabeth Young Lee. Sara was born in Morris, NJ in 1831 and lived in that area throughout her life. Her husband, John's occupation was listed as a "watchman" in the 1880 federal census for Newark, NJ. They had two daughters, Augusta and Ida. Ida married an architect, Thomas Cressey who immigrated from England in the 1870's.
Their oldest surviving child, Clare was Gretta's mother. Clare married a young chemist in the early 1900's and together they moved to my home town in Ohio to begin a new company in 1917.
Almost immediately, Gretta's father, Charles Shipman became one of the outstanding naturalists in this area. One of the most significant legacies he left our region was Gretta who herself was an eager naturalist and conservation activist.
The quilt must not have been used very much and I think I might be the first person to have laundered it -- that was a scary experience but everything was fine!! Using it once in a while has expanded my appreciation for the quilt and led to some little discoveries I thought you might enjoy.
Since I can't tuck quilts in at the foot of my bed, I often lay quilts sideways. Here you can see the view from the bottom edge of the quilt. There is no border across the top edge. When I have it out, I go over it carefully looking for wear and tear and make small repairs such as spots where the appliques have come loose.
This year as I was going over it, I realized the wreaths have an up and down?!?
See how the leaves are arranged?
Except for this one which sits at the upper right corner of the quilt. As I look at this picture, the leaves in that wreath look "plumper" and I wonder if that block was made later or if it was the first block and she modified the pattern a bit? We'll never know.
Last year, I came across some loose threads along a seam in the lower left corner where the lower border was joined to the quilt. I went hunting for a pair of scissors and needle to tie them off or trim them. But when I looked more closely, I realized they were basting stitches that served as a guideline for the cross hatch quilting she did. What a brilliant idea!!
I decided to leave the loose threads -- it gives the quilt a special touch.
This week, I'm finishing up a label for the quilt that will include the family line from Sara to Gretta so that no one looses track of the history which has been carefully documented by four generations.
What an honor to own this special quilt from a woman who had such a big impact on my life!!