Later in her life, my maternal grandmother collected antique china and lace, some of which she gave to me when I was a young woman. Authentic keepsakes from her own childhood were few due to multiple moves she had made leading up to her permanent move to California in the 1960's. But early in the 1970's she gave me a bag filled with small, pieced squares of very old calicoes, chintzes and homespuns. According to Grandma, these quilt pieces were cut and stitched by her mother and her aunt Maida (a beloved family member) on the family farm in Pella, Iowa. Amidst these were a couple of grubby, pieced squares that look as though they may have been stitched by a child. One of these is pictured below.
In the 1970's I didn't like the earthen colors of most of the antique squares Grandma gave me so I put them back in the bag and forgot about them. In February of this year as I was clearing out unwanted fabrics in my own stash, I took a look at all the squares, thinking, "I'll never get around to using these," so I winced, tossed the bag into the giveaway box and reminded myself that I ought not "confuse people with things." A day or two later, I changed my mind and retrieved them. How could I cast away something that my grandmother had kept, that dated from the 1800's, the story of which she herself had told me? The fabrics were all apparently unused and still crisp, dating from the 1850's-1900. Many of the fabrics are classic, collectible and rare Victorian prints.
The end of the story: I did get the quilt made! The color palette that I found dreary in earlier years I now find interesting and historic. That these pieces were hand cut and pieced by my great grandmother and my great great aunt moves me. And to think I'd tossed them heartlessly into a pile for the donation truck before I came to my senses!