Happy Mother’s Day!
A couple of months ago I received an E-mail from Liza Hazzard who attends Our Shepherd Lutheran Church in Avon, Indiana with my mother. My mother enjoys sharing my Around the Frame column with fellow parishioners and Liza asked if I could share her Aunt Norma’s quilting legacy with you.
Norma Grayson née Borrenpohl was born near Okawville, Illinois in 1925. She started quilting at age 16 in 1941 with the help of her Aunt Sophie, making a pink flower embroidery quilt. She didn’t make her next quilt a “Blue Basket of Flowers” until 1949, after she married David J. Grayson in December of 1948. In the 1950’s she made seven quilts, the 1960’s two quilts, the 1970’s six quilts, the 1980’s 34 quilts, the 1990’s 22 quilts, the 2000’s nine quilts and ten quilts, which are not dated, for a total of 102 quilts. On most of the quilts, Norma embroidered her name or initials and the year in one of the corners.
Norma made a variety of styles and types of quilts including, old fashion patchwork, tie quilts, embroidery, applique, yo-yo, and French knot. She also used a variety of materials and thread. Some of Norma’s quilts were embroidery kit quilts, but most of her quilts were inspired by her children, grandchildren, holidays, seasons, special occasions, interests, and various themes. She made a variety of quilts including, golden spider webs, teddy bears, kites, dolls, ducks, pheasants, eagles, Bicentennial, Christmas, and Valentines’. She made two of several of the quilts she really liked, making over 100 quilts and only sold one to her eye surgeon when he commissioned her to make an applique bird quilt, of which she made two, so she could keep one.
The 1965 patchwork star quilt was the first quilt that her daughter Beth, son David Jr., and nephew Tim Hasheider helped quilt. Norma also taught several of her granddaughters and nieces to quilt and helped them make their own. Norma made her last quilt in 2008 with her daughter Beth: a fish and log cabin quilt.
In 1982 upon his retirement, husband David, designed and drew the quilting patterns for many of her quilts. The Grayson’s Butterfly Garden was the first quilt they created together.
On November 15, 2003 Norma held a one-woman quilt show called “A Harvest of Quilts” in Okawville, Illinois sponsored by the Immanuel Lutheran Church Ladies. An Okawville Times article on November 5, 2003 announced the quilt show stating 70+ quilts would be on display in the church gymnasium and featured one of her famous grape quilts with its 2000 stuffed appliqued grapes. Over 300 people attended and “Wildflowers” was the people’s choice winner. After the quilt show, her niece, Joan Sower’s daughters Julie Bahr, and Katie Krennings made a photo album of most of the quilts displayed at the show.
Norma really wanted people, and especially her family, to enjoy her quilts and did not want her quilts to be sold upon her death, but rather given to her family and kept as heirlooms. Over the years Norma asked her immediate family and some special relatives to put their names by the pictures of quilts in the album they wanted after she passed.
When Norma and David had both passed away, the task of distributing the quilts fell to their daughter Beth. In December, 2018 Beth gave all of Norma and David’s quilts to their family members. It was a daunting task for Beth to load up her car and distribute them first to the relatives who had chosen a quilt in the photo album and then to other relatives including her last surviving aunt and Liza. Liza’s quilt is a tulip basket quilt and was chosen by Beth for her because 1954 was embroidered on it: the year before Liza was born. The pattern was handed down from Norma’s mother Wilhelmina. This was quite the experience and gave Beth a wonderful feeling to be able to fulfill her mother’s wishes and make so many relatives happy. Everyone was very excited to receive a quilt from Norma and David, whose quilting legacy will live on with their family.
Thank you, Liza and Cousin Beth for sharing Norma’s quilt legacy of not only creating the quilts but also for having the forethought to ensure they will all be cherished for generations to come!