Our Grandma, Nancy Mills was an excellent quilter. In fact, she gifted each of her children, grandchildren, & great-grandchildren one or more of her hand stitched creations. Many were crazy quilts which were scraps of material from a no longer wearable shirt or dress (and most of those were sewn by her), she made quilts out of a bag of ties someone once gave her, & she even made patterned quilts like the one in the picture called a ‘Dutch Girl’ quilt. And you better not call her quilt a blanket either, or you would get a tongue lashing! Her talent for sewing quilts began out of need, a need to keep warm. Back in her day, winter mornings were brutal without the convenience of electricity. She made her quilts thick & heavy. I’ve never seen one of her quilts tear.
Grandma is Daddy’s mama. She & her husband, Clyde (grandpa) had nine children. The pair are no longer with us, but Grandma left a huge, helpful, lasting legacy & it just so happens to be a thing of beauty-her quilts. She was very fond of Dolly Parton, having grown up a lot like Dolly-poor, hardworking, self sufficient. Grandma always loved the song by Dolly ‘Coat of Many Colors’. It reminded her of the quilts she made & the hard times she faced growing up. She even made coats, housecoats, vests, & more stitched in the same fashion as a quilt. In one of the above pictures, is a jacket she made for me out of tie scraps. I think it still looks elegant. Grandma, like Dolly, was never ashamed of her stitched rags as some would call them. I prefer to call them memories. I can look at one of her quilts for hours reminiscing what Aunt wore a dress made out of that material, or I think back to the curtains that once hung in the living room which made it on a quilt, or even the material from one of my dresses my Mama made for me can be found on one of her quilts. I guess I got the gift of recycling from her, she never threw anything away, always found a use for it.
I spent many summer days with Grandma & my Aunt Dot. It was always hot, so chores got done early. From pulling corn, cutting it off the cob, then making its way to the freezer, but not before I gnawed every single cob first-that’s the truth! There was also canning tomato days. There’d be no air conditioner, the kitchen would be hot, it would be around 9am & I was eating the remnants of the canning tomatoes which was the cooked peels that didn’t make it through the sieve. By the time 11am rolled around, the kitchen was clean, my belly was full, Grandma settled in her rocker after nearly a full days work to watch The Price is Right. The news was next at noon-time for a mater sandwich & a little Pepsi. Then at 12:30, the real drama started-The Young & the Restless. I am still a die-hard fan of the show, my Y&R roots are strong! Every time I hear the theme song of Y&R, I can still hear the running of the sewing machine, I smell a hint of burning thread, & can taste that tomato sandwich. This is Grandma & me (age 4ish) hanging out in the kitchen canning.
I’m so lucky to have had those memories with Grandma & Dot. When Grandma was creating her masterpieces, I bet she had no idea just how much her quilts would mean to me & perhaps to all that were privy to one. For me, they kept me warm many a cold night, they were the cradles for our babies while they enjoyed tummy time & built strength to sit up, the kids & myself enjoyed many an indoor & outdoor picnic on her quilts. But most importantly, her quilts became an emergency relief for us. When Jack became too big for one of us to pick him up after a seizure, we used one of Grandma’s to transport him. I always traveled with one of her thick, long, sturdy quilts. No matter where we were, I was prepared for a seizure & for a way to get him to the car. There was the time at one of Ava’s soccer games at a busy park he fell out in a seizure. Lee wasn’t there, but thankfully, some of our local friends were & the quilt & friends were to the rescue. The fellas got on each end of Jack & carried him to the car. Mind you, it did look a little suspicious carrying a body in a quilt like we were getting ready to dump it in a river 🤣 (got to find those humorous thoughts somewhere). Or there was the time during Ava’s birthday party when Jack faked a seizure-yes, I said faked! Ava was getting the attention & during gifts, Jack fell out-was completely unresponsive. It wasn’t until we started loading his body on the quilt & carrying him through the house did he start laughing & perked up. Y’all just would not believe this joker, I haven’t even gotten into half of Jack’s tales.
I was never fond of a blankie as a child, nor did any of our kids have one. My security came later in life in the form of handcrafted pieces of extra material & outgrown clothing all stitched together like a puzzle most often, that I would not need until I was in my 30’s. Who would of known that a lovey at that age could be so beneficial! I could not of asked for a better gift. How cool is it that her craft that started out of necessity to keep warm, would end up being a necessity for her great grandson. So thank you, Grandma for my blankies…I mean quilts.