I do not come from a line of quilters. There was one quilt in my family before I took up the hobby and I am so happy that quilt made its way to my home! The quilt was made by my great-great grandmother and was never finished. Over the years, a sheet was sewn to the edges of the quilt top to create a backing. It hung in my aunt's house for years and she eventually gifted it to me a few years ago -- such a meaningful gift!
Here's the quilt top -- it features hand-appliqued basket blocks on a solid background. The fabrics were once vibrant and bright, and my guess is that they are 1930's fabrics. The stitches are tiny and perfect. There are some amazing make-do blocks where she pieced together smaller pieces to make the larger applique shape (truly using every single scrap!) I wish I knew the story behind the quilt or why it was never finished, but am so thankful to have this piece of my family history.
My original intention with this quilt was to finish it. I loved the idea of finishing a project my great-great grandmother started. I took the sheet backing off and cleaned almost 100 years of dirt stains from the quilt. (I hand-washed the quilt using Retro Clean and it returned the quilt to its original colors instead of the yellow it was. Truly a miracle worker!) Unfortuantely, the quilt also had so many holes and small tears across the quilt. I thought about tracking down similar-looking fabrics or feed sacks and patching the holes, but it honestly felt like an impossible task.
After years of agonizing over what to do with this quilt, I finally decided to repurpose this quilt into ornaments. I know people have mixed opinions over whether it's ok to cut up antique quilts, but I know this quilt top will bring so much more love and enjoyment as meaningful holiday decor for my family members.
The first thing I did was create a paper template for my ornament shape. This template allowed me to see the fabric placement, so I could position the shape to showcase as many of the quilt's fabrics as possible (while also working around any holes). I traced the shape twice (one for the front of the ornament an one for the back). I cut the shapes out, leaving about an 1" all the way around the shape. I sandwiched the shapes around a square of batting, sewed on the traced line, cut the shape out 1/4" from the traced lines, and added a ribbon. (I share the free ornament pattern at the end of this blog!)
Each ornament is unique -- no two are alike! I was able to make enough ornaments for each family's household to have one to display. I can't wait to share these ornaments with my grandmother, my aunts and uncles, and all my cousins. I love the idea that we'll all have a piece of great-great grandma's quilt on our Christmas trees each year. Even though we're all spread across the United States, it feels so special to share this piece of our history together.
I did save my two favorite blocks (and the ones that were in the best shape). I plan to frame them, so I'll have a reminder of the original quilt's design and handywork. I was never able to meet my great-great grandma, but I like to think that she'd be happy to know her beautiful work is being enjoyed by four generations of her family (and hopefully more if they're passed down through the years).
After making these, I thought others might want the pattern! It's a freebie on our blog. You can make the pattern using your favorite Christmas fabrics or get creative with piecing or repurposing like I did. It's a quick and easy pattern and makes a great gift -- I hope you give it a try!
Thanks for joining me for "happy hour",
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