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Who inspired you to start quilting?
I enjoy learning how people got introduced to quilting. I’m Jody Sanders and here’s more about the person, day, and quilt that started me on my quilting journey.
On September 27, 1888, my great-aunt Gertrude was born near Chicago. On October 2, 1988 we celebrated her 100th birthday in Laurens, Iowa. She was the oldest of seven and had six younger brothers, including my grandpa. She never married or had children. Perhaps helping raise six boys on the farm had something to do with that.
At the time of her 100th birthday she lived in a retirement home. She enjoyed current events and hand-pieced every day. She was featured in a local newspaper as someone who “likes to sew” and “doesn’t like to sit around”.
Gertrude made quilts for her brothers and their families. For her birthday party, family members were asked to bring quilts Gertrude made for them and the quilts were displayed in the activity room. We were treated to a mini trunk show of quilts that spanned decades. Gertrude, who had been confined to a wheelchair for many years, rolled up to each quilt and reminisced about for whom and why the quilt was made. I was fascinated by the stories, memories, and sometimes tears that were shared that day. My mom brought a quilt Gertrude made for her 1962 wedding to my dad. I have a photo of Gertrude and Mom from that day.
My mom is not a quilter. She has many talents, but cutting up small pieces of fabric to sew them back together doesn’t make any sense to her! But there was a quilter in my mom’s generation. My aunt Harla made a quilt for Stuart and me when we got married in 1986. At Gertrude’s party in 1988 I decided I wanted to be the quilter in my generation of our family.
I started taking classes, got involved in guilds and groups, took over an extra bedroom in our home for a sewing space, and started buying lots and lots of fabric!
In 2007 I started working at Meredith Corporation in Des Moines, Iowa as a member of the editorial team for Better Homes & Gardens American Patchwork & Quilting magazine. As part of that job, I did trunk shows and spoke about how I got involved in quilting. My mom came to one of my speaking engagements. My mom is a retired speech teacher and knows the value of a good visual aid. A few weeks later she gave me the quilt and said, “You should have this when you give your talks so people can see Gertrude’s quilt."
And as Paul Harvey used to say, “and here is the rest of the story”. I was often asked the name of the pattern, but I had difficulty finding the correct name. This was several years after Gertrude died and I was sure it was a pattern and not her own design. On my 50th birthday I attended the Iowa Illinois Quilt Study Group meeting in Kalona, Iowa. Julie Silber was the guest speaker discussing Amish quilts in the morning portion of the meeting. The August meeting is also the one where people donate quilt-related items for a silent auction that is the yearly fundraiser for the group. For this type of auction, a sheet of paper is beside each item and people write their name and a bid, you can increase the bid by signing your name and placing a higher bid. At 1 p.m. bidding was halted and the name with the highest bid wins the item. As I wandered around looking at the items, I saw a pamphlet with the pattern of Gertrude’s quilt. It was in yellow instead of pink, but it was the quilt. My heart started beating very quickly.
The pattern was bundled up with a grouping of things, so I couldn’t really look at it closely or open it. There were others who had already added bids to the sheet. I tried to act nonchalant as I added my bid and hovered close by, so as people added bids, I was there to increase my bid. I was determined I was going to win the bid no matter the cost. As “last call” went out for bids at 12:59 p.m., I watched the other bidder take her seat and added my final bid of $35 to ensure that I won the bundle with the pattern. The pattern is Climbing Rose from 1942 Montgomery Wards Quilt Design Booklet.
The afternoon meeting included show-and-tell from attendees. Can you guess the quilt I happened to bring that day? The quilt I brought was Gertrude’s quilt. I was hoping someone would be able to identify the pattern for me. But instead, I won the pattern in the silent auction. On my 50th birthday I now knew the name and had the pattern of the quilt that sparked my initial interest in quilting 25 years earlier at my great aunt Gertrude’s 100 birthday party.
Hope you enjoyed a little history about who inspired me to quilt?
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