Last summer, Pa graciously helped me paint the guest room here at Briarpatch. The guest room has been seriously upgraded from its previous state, but that's all for another blog post. The point of this one is the blanket. After I had all of the furniture in and the decor arranged, I asked my mother if I could come over and grab a blanket out of my childhood closet. Considering the fact that my sister and I have randomly asked to look at something and then made a HUGE MESS out of boxes of old things at Ma's multiple times, she was hesitant. I promised that I knew exactly where the blanket was, however. And I did. It's a special blanket -- the original guest room blanket from when my grandparents were alive and lived in this very house.
Above, you can see the design in the center of the blanket. (My bad for the lines showing that I haven't ironed it.) When I was little, my sister and I used to come over here to spend the night from time to time. This beautiful blanket was on the guest bed, but I remember Grandma Blonderson taking it off and putting it away when we spent the night. I mentioned this to my cousins -- that I remembered Grandma saying if we sat on it that the bumps could disappear. Chicago Cousin pointed out that maybe just maybe Grandma didn't want little children spilling things or tearing or squishing or ruining her lovely bedspread. So true. All this time, I'd been thinking I had to take care to not sit on one spot too much because the bumps would smoosh down. Nice one, Grandma!
I found the blanket instantly in the closet and brought it back home to put on my guest bed. I was flooded with memories, and it felt wonderful. I even gave it the "boob tuck" pillow treatment just like Grandma used to. Ma taught me how to do this properly when I was a little girl. I haven't done it in a few decades, so my current version is a bit sloppy. Meh. It still looks faboosh:
Back when I started researching the history of dollhouses and miniatures, I learned about the word provenance. It basically means the history of something, or exact origin. With antique dollhouses, they're far more valuable when they come with provenance materials -- who made it, when, why, how, etc. As I've gotten older, I've become more and more interested in the provenance of my family's heirlooms. I got really curious about Grandma's bedspread.
I found a tag still in place and legible at the top of the blanket, which is very helpful in figuring out the history of it. The tag says "Bates Queen Elizabeth," so I quickly found the Bates site and the exact blanket. Now I know why Grandma didn't want any kiddos to play on it: it was expensive. There's a really great history of the Bates Mill Store, so I read that, and then the FAQ page told me that the Queen Elizabeth blanket is a matelassé bedspread, which is a particular type of weaving that creates the "bumps." And I'm 99.9% sure that no matter what I do, those bumps aren't going anywhere. WHOOT!
The Queen Elizabeth blanket was in a tub in my old closet with a few other blankets. I left them behind because I wasn't ready to bring them home yet. After my house fire in college, I got really jumpy about heirlooms. I lost some important things from all of my grandparents in that fire, and it took me many years to feel safe bringing anything special into my home. My parents, bless their hearts, diligently kept all of my special things in my old bedroom. (Yes, I realize something could happen to my things there, too, *knocks on wood*, but it just feels safer.) My sister cleaned out her childhood closet many years ago, so hers has been used for storage for a long, long time. Ma has put some clothes and jackets on my clothing racks, but the shelves and floor are still filled with special things from my past. Little by little, I've been moving them in.
It's time to bring the blankets home.
Last night, I went to my folks' house and went back to that very closet and pulled out a tub. Inside, I found my beauties. The first one is pink and white. It was made by my great grandmother for my Gran and given to her in 1912, when she was 4 years old -- I learned this because it's embroidered on the back (I'm not showing the signatures for privacy reasons). Then it was passed to my mother and me -- again with embroidered names. That's some good provenance! I suppose at some point, I'll stitch my niece's name on the back and pass it on to her. It will be a while though because I'm so attached to it. For being over 100 years old, it's in remarkable shape. As much as I tried, I couldn't get the cats to go away during the photo shoot, so Gretchen and Webster will help me present them here:
The back of this blanket is simple white, but the front is oh so purty:
There are little black or dark blue dots within the white on the front. At some point, I'll read up on the history of American quilts to learn what this kind of pattern is called:
The next quilt has my mother's first and middle names on the back and the date 1953, which means Ma would have received it when she was 8 years old. My first name is embroidered with my birth year, 1977. This one is especially soft because it's been loved, used, and washed many times over the years:
There is a name on the front that I can't quite make out. I assume this woman made the quilt for Gran, who then gave it as a gift to Ma:
The backing of this quilt is light pink with flowers. This pattern is also under the main front design, and it's peeking through in places. Ma loved this blanket, and Gran told her to use it and not feel bad. Quilts aren't meant to be boxed up forever. I'm slowly learning this lesson:
There is one quilt that I've always used, even after my house fire, without any fear. It was made by the Quilt Ladies at the Lutheran church that I grew up going to. The church has an auction each year, and I saw this quilt some time between 6th–8th grade and WANTED IT. It was on display before the auction, and I distinctly recall
The church adds little red, felt crosses to the corner of each quilt, and mine has fallen off over time. I've been thinking about going over to the church to see if I can get a new one sewn on before it completely disintegrates. We'll see. I might just leave it as it is:
Here's the thing about quilts: they aren't warm. Pretty much ever. But my church quilt? That thing is SO warm!!! All of the squares are polyester, which holds heat like crazy. I sleep with this quilt on my bed in the winter, and I'm never cold no matter how low I set the heat. If you ever want a really warm quilt, think 70s fabrics. Just sayin'.
Then we move on to my bestest quilt. It's very special to me because it was made by my college bestie, Seawee. Seawee has always been incredibly crafty. Girlfriend can sew, cook, bake, and make damn near everything by hand beautifully. In 1998, Seawee made me this Dorothy costume to wear for Halloween. I can't find a picture of the entire thing, but at least you can see part of it here:
Little did I know that she kept some of the material and put it into a quilt for me. I'm incredibly lucky that Seawee gave me the quilt AFTER my house fire. It was my college graduation gift from her back in 1999, and she was going to give it to me early. Thank GAWD she didn't. Nestled in the squares are little triangles of my Dorothy costume material. It's an incredibly special quilt. When I moved to Portland right after graduation, I brought it with me as my only blanket. Here, you can see it lying on the floor on my not-yet-inflated airbed that I slept on until I could buy a real bed:
When I moved from Portland to Chicago, I put Seawee's quilt in the box with my other blankets in that childhood closet. It's been hidden from view since 2001, sadly sitting unattended in a tub. I've gotten over many things that used to really bother me -- house fire buttons that get pushed from time to time. The healing process is continuous, and I'm sure there will always be little flickers of panic surrounding those memories. But when I moved back home to Farmsville, I made myself start bringing some of my precious things into Farmhouse Villa. I had to push myself to do this. Each time, it got a little easier. For some reason, I could never pull the blanket trigger. Not anymore.
Once again, Gretchen is the lump in the middle. She wears it well, and so does the bed:
[OK, seriously WTF, Blogger? No matter what I do, these last few paragraphs will NOT left align. Whatevs.]
So which blanket will stay on the guest bed permanently? None of them. They'll have a rotation, and each one will get loved and used and get to breathe and be out here in the real world where they belong. I noticed Seawee didn't embroider her name on the back of the quilt, so I'll ask her to do that to keep the provenance intact.
I'm so blessed. Look at all of these lovely quilts from so many lovely ladies. Thank you. Some certain meows I know thank you, too: