On a recent Saturday morning the door at Born Again Quilts opened and in walked Karen Rydman of Ossian. Karen announced that she has been wanting to come visit BAQ for a long time since she had been following my Waynedale News column for years.
Karen started looking around and showing me photos of her quilting legacy. I was struck to see photos of a Seven Sister quilt made with hexes instead of the usual diamonds so Karen told me this quilt’s great adventure:
“About eight years ago, my daughter Sara called to tell me she found a quilt top that seemed to be made with a feed sacking. She noted that it was ‘just my colors’ and in very bad shape. The ladies at the sale wanted $20 dollars for the tattered rag. I had to go see it, and it was in more than bad shape: It had been loved over the years into a chenille piece of great color. We decide the price was high and that we would split the cost and I would repair it for her simply because the feed sacking made this a unique piece, tattered or not. That was the beginning of a great story.
First, I began to match and repair the color pieces of the quilt using English paper piecing over the damaged fabric because some of the hexes were virtually gone. I had to find the proper weight of muslin for the back so that the quilt top would feel as though it had been quilted at the time it was created.
Next, I laid aside the quilt to research the name of the pattern. That took too long, but I learned it was the seven-sister pattern popular during the Civil War Era done in hexagons rather than diamonds. It was a unique construction in which each of the blocks had the same colors, but not one ring of color was the same pattern. Once constructed the circles were tied together with hexagons of yellow and red.
After mending the pattern blocks, I mended the muslin connecting blocks which took about a year of on-and-off work. So far three years have passed.
Then something very exciting happened: We found someone who knew and loved that quilt top. As Sara sat at a church activity, she was sharing my avocation of quilting with her friends. A woman in the group sighed and said she remembered her Grand-Aunt having this colorful quilt, describing it, and that it had been lost when her aunt was placed in the local nursing home. We realized that I had it in my possession, this much-loved family quilt! Sara asked me if I would complete the restoration and hand this precious family piece back to Ruthie Walker. We decided it would be a grand idea to surprise her with it on her birthday.
I began quilting the 2,000+ hexagons still mending as I continued quilting. Having set a deadline of March 19, 2016, I had to hurry. The next decision was whether to make a border and what color to use since quilts from the 30’s and 40’s usually did not have a border. However, the edges of this piece had lost their shape due to the years of use. Bev, from Country Quilt Creations in Preble, Indiana, helped me determine that a Depression Era blue floral would be a great finish binding as it drew out touches of blue throughout the printed feed sacking and conformed to quilting norms of that era. Shortly, the piece was completed and labeled with the information we surreptitiously gleaned from the future owner.
We learned the beautiful Seven Sister Quilt was made for a wedding gift for Ruthie’s aunt and uncle, Raymond and Virgilla Platt, by members of their extended family who lived in Branch County, Michigan. Each woman made a colorful block and then it was assembled and gifted unquilted for the wedding in 1942. I was told it was given unfinished because of the cost to quilt it. This restored and hand quilted piece was returned to Ruthie Walker on her 67th birthday in March 2016: What a joyful day!
The best part of this quilt story is that Ruthie and I are now great friends. The threads that completed her much-loved quilt top also tied two hearts together.”
What a great “Circle of Life” this quilt has enjoyed including being united at last with its intended recipient. Thank-you Karen for sharing its grand adventure.