Sunday, January 8, 2012

Smokehouse Quilt

My dog Penny taking a rest

This quilt rested on the foot of my bed all summer.  It is a scrappy bow tie quilt -- a lot of the family quilts are bow ties, it must have been a go-to pattern.  While it is certainly nothing fancy, this worn little quilt is in relatively good condition considering the circumstances of its rescue:  the quilt had been nailed across a window in the smokehouse behind my grandmother's house, and it had been there for YEARS and YEARS and YEARS.

See the holes?

A smokehouse is a little wooden shed where meat can be cured.  In my grandparents' case, it was primarily hog meat.  When I was very small, they still had cattle, and one of my uncles was a hunter, so maybe there was some venison or other game, but mostly it was hogs.  My papaw raised a few hogs every other year.  He would butcher them and cure the meat, enough for them -- and they always had people coming over to eat -- and enough to share with the five grown children's families.  I never helped them really, but I remember going down with my mom so she could help make sausage and other meats (which they canned).  The smokehouse was mostly for curing hams and sides of bacon (or what we called "streak-ed meat," which is similar to bacon).

Anyhow, the smokehouse hasn't been used for anything but storage in a very long time.  My cousin was cleaning it out and took the quilt down from the window.  He was going to throw it away -- it was so dirty -- but my mom said no, she would take it home with her.  She washed it, and it actually turned out to be a nice little quilt, the kind that feels good over you when you're sleeping.  (Side note here:  I cannot find a batting that feels as good as these old quilts which were just lined with spread cotton -- they are soft and slightly fluffy, not thin and stiff like a lot of newer quilts.)

When my family visits my mom we have to sleep all over the house, and on one of our visits Mom gave this quilt to one of my kids to sleep under.  I noticed it since it was new to her, and Mom said if I wanted it I could have it, so I brought the quilt home with me.

The quilting is pretty basic, and the scrap placement sometimes makes sense to me and sometimes doesn't.  In some ways it's a utility quilt, except I know that it took a lot of careful work.  I wonder what the scraps were from -- maybe some grandma or aunt's dresses or an uncle's shirts?  No one knows who the maker was, but I am assuming that it was someone who was somehow related to me.  That thought makes the quilt even more comforting to lie under.

I have not repaired the holes.  The binding also needs replacing.  There are lots and lots of projects on my "should do" list ahead of this one.  But I go ahead and use the quilt because I think if I had been the one to make it, I would like to know that someone -- especially someone from my own family -- is still enjoying and appreciating my work all these years after I'm gone.    
 Penny enjoying a rare moment in the quilt


  1. What a delightful history behind this quilt. I'm so glad that you didn't try to repair the holes. What a delightful gift from your mother.

    We have some family quilts as well, but they are the biggest, ugliest, most utilitarian quilts that anyone can imagine with no imagination or creativity used at all. Big chunks of winter coats were used. Still, I'd like to get to camp and see them again. I'd know what everyone was wearing for winter coats a hundred years ago.

  2. Wouldn't it be nice for any of us to leave behind something future generations would enjoy...I love this quilt and the story. What a treasure!

  3. And who would have thought that one could rescue a smokehouse quilt, even one so pretty?! I am happy that your mom, and then you, could see the beauty in it! (I think Penny sees the beauty in it too. ~smile~)

  4. I love the story of this quilt (& the way you tell it). There is something really special about touching and using objects made by hand with such love and care from so long ago. I hate it when things like that end up in museums. And it's the holes and imperfections of such things that as well as the fabrics help to tell an object's history as a living thing. Enjoy - somewhere I think the person who made it looks down and smiles happily that her work is again so cherished.


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