Friday, March 15, 2013

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

This is my latest quilt for the Material Mavens art quilting group that I am in.  Today was our reveal day, and our theme for this time was Communications.  I chose to focus on letters written from my parents to my Aunt Sallie and my paternal grandmother.  They were written during the 1930s, when Daddy was looking for a job on a newspaper and then from Mother, after they married.  I also included a picture from that era.

For the crazy quilt background for the snippets of letters and envelopes, I fused some of Mother's handkerchiefs to pink and blue fabrics, as well as some old lace of hers.  Then I cut them into crazy quilt shapes and sewed them together.  I embellished the background with machine embroidery stitches on some of the seam lines.  Then I fused down and appliqued the letter snippets and a few envelopes, as well as the photo.

These wonderful letters were given to me by my cousin David, who sorted through his mother's letters after she died and put them into categories according to which sibling the letters were from.  He then put them into a notebook and gave the notebook to the various families.  Thanks to David!

The back of the quilt is also pictured above.  The fabrics that are under the hankies can better be seen on the backing.  I used the pink fabric that reminds me of Mother's Pink Tower china (which she willed to my niece Laura!), and the blue fabric with blue bonnets and other flowers makes me think of Daddy, who loved gardening and flowers so much.  I also used some 1930s era, genuine, feed sack fabrics, again in the signature colors of pink and blue.  

The close-up allows one to read some of the choicer quotations from my parents.  Daddy is often depressed over the financial situation in the country and for him personally, unable at first to find a newspaper job.  He relates to his sister Sallie how a new job soon ended, and he tells her, "Don't tell Mom!"  (Some things never change!)  And Mother, a new bride, lists for her sister-in-law many of the delights of marriage, including trying new recipes.  She projects into the future and imagines herself as a granny whose grandchildren speak in "dulcet tones" about the hours spend in Grandmother's kitchen!

This latter statement is poignant for me.  Her first granddaughter, our beloved daughter Mary Katherine, who is no longer with us, DID indeed spend hours in her kitchen.  She loved especially to make cookies and candy with her grandmother, and I have recipes in her hand-writing, copied down from some of my mother's.  


  1. Alice, what a wonderful quilt! I cannot imagine any of my cousins talking in dulcet tones in Grandmother's kitchen, but I remember many an hour spent there - mainly eating, though she did once teach me how to bake a cake from scratch. I see Grandmother in each of these fabrics.

  2. Perfect, Alice. I live in a sea of old letters. You have found a way to capture not only the spirit of your family, but many more. Using the handkerchiefs and lace,and then the picture. I am there. Lovely. (Knowing our dads may have known each other makes this truly special for me.)

  3. Alice, this is my favorite quilt so far. I am enchanted with your combination of history, nostalgia and love. The little touches that remind you of your mother, and your father's suffering at the beginning of his career make the past come alive. Love it! Love you!

  4. Alice, letter-writing is DEFINITELY an art, and you expressed that beautifully in your quilt. Our parents and grandparents had such beautiful handwriting, and the thought that they expressed their emotions much like we do in our emails is a real contrast of method but not of desire to communicate. What a beautiful way you brought out the "Communications" theme. ss

  5. Beautiful. -- Abby Lloyd

  6. This is wonderful! I have the middle fabric (or a close relative) in the table runner you made for my wedding to go with Grandmother's pink tower Spode china. The concept and artistry in your execution of idea in this quilt is fabulous. I hope to some day see it in person. I have a feeling it's even better up close. I love this Aunt Alice!