What would be a more fitting topic this time of year than the history of four generations of quilting mothers? I first met Priscilla Keidel Miller when she came down to the Born Again Quilts studio to show me how to fold a hankie into a butterfly quilt block. Ever since she has been popping in to help tie a quilt for a Waynedale resident who wanted her last quilt completed before she died, and boy did she give the rotary cutter a workout as the “Pot o’ Remnants” project got underway. One day Priscilla invited me to her home so she could share not only her quilts, but quilts going back four generations.
I asked and Priscilla gladly shared her family’s quilting history:
My great-grandmother Magdalina Good was born in 1867 in Central Illinois. She married Daniel Augsburger in the late 1880s and commenced to birthing and raising her family of four children. Daniel was a carpenter and farmer and they lived on a quarter-mile section of rich farmland just south of Flanagan, Illinois. As time allowed she began making and storing up quilts. In 1944, the year before her passing, she invited the family over and gave away a quilt to each daughter and granddaughter. I have a little black and white photo of her on that momentous day surrounded by a dozen quilts, hanging on the line behind her, and draped on chairs around her. The quilt that was passed down to me is called “Ocean Wave” or “Corn and Beans.” The block consists of a central white square surrounded by three rows of tiny triangles made from scrap-bag 1930s prints.
Ida Augsburger, my grandmother was born to Magdalina and Daniel in 1883. As she was coming of age, Ida worked as an assistant to a seamstress until she married Ed King in 1915. They spent most of their lives farming the old home place there near Flanagan. Like her mother, Ida also made and stored up quilts. One Sunday afternoon in 1966 Grandma brought out her quilts, pinned a number on each one and passed the hat. Whatever number you drew out of the hat: that was your quilt. The obscure pattern of the quilt I received is called “Grandmother’s Choice 1”, according to “1001 Patchwork Designs” by Maggie Malone. It consists of a central red and yellow nine-patch surrounded by brown and yellow triangles: The wide sashings and borders are blue and white calico.
Like her mother, Ida was an excellent seamstress. Her stitches are tiny and even. Her points are flawless. Her stitching lines are straight and executed without the aid of pencil and ruler. For the batting Ida used a cotton flannel blanket. This made the quilt warm, and allowed for tiny stitches, although there was minimal loft.
My mother Eudene King Keidel, was born to Ida and Ed in February of 1921. Because she and my father spent their career working in overseas ministry, Eudene did not begin quilting in earnest until she was nearing retirement. However, she quickly made up for lost time, crafting quilts for her home, her four children and nine grandchildren. The quilt she gave me has painted flowers on a white background, surrounded by a wide lime green sash.
When I was a freshman in high school, I told my mother, “I’d like to make a quilt for my hope chest.” I have seldom seen my mother so enthusiastic. The next Saturday, we drove to the fabric store in Bloomington, IL, where she allowed me to pick out a multitude of 1/2 yard cuts of calico fabric. She showed me how to cut out 3” squares, and I set to, piecing an “Around the World” quilt top. It took me all of high school to finish this project. In the winter of my senior year, Mother took my pieced top back to Grandma Ida’s, where they made the “sandwich,” and quilted the whole thing in two weeks. They bound it, and Mother brought it back home, a finished quilt. I put it away until marriage and have nearly worn the quilt out since.
Unlike Ida and Magdalina, I usually piece my quilts on the sewing machine. I use a hoop and quilt by hand, so it is still slow going. Each of my children have one or more of my creations and I am working on the grandkids. My present project is for the youngest child: 3-year-old Mikaela. It has a Mary Engelbreit panel in the center, surrounded by rows in bright primary colors. I hope to have it complete by this fall, so I can give it to her over the holidays. By then, she will have out-grown her youth bed, and will be ready for her “big girl bed.” She will also receive a matching pillow case at that time.
So, as you can see, although some methods have changed over the years, the tradition of quilt making continues in our family.
Thank you, Priscilla for sharing your women folks’ quilting prowess: Each one exemplifies the best in quilt construction and hand quilting.
May we bless all of our Quilting Mothers who have so patiently taught us their needle skills so they live through our stitches. I wish all Mothers and Mother-figures a very Happy Mother’s Day!