Thursday, September 10, 2015

What a lady!

My mother-in-law, Cecelia, was a thoughtful and kind-hearted woman with a gentle and quiet spirit. I (Teri) was honored to have become part of her family, and over the years we grew quite close.

Shortly before she moved from her home in Virginia to live closer to our family, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After her surgery, I took off a week of work to go down and help her out during her initial healing. We spent that week talking and sharing family stories, making and freezing easy meals, going to doctor appointments, and beginning to pack for her move. Though the reason for the visit may not have been ideal, we truly had a great time together. At the end of the week, she told me she had something she wanted to give me for helping her. She came out of her bedroom holding this quilt, and she lovingly put it in my arms. This quilt was made by her favorite Aunt Mae, and she told me that it would give her great joy for me to own it now, because she knew how much I loved quilts and would cherish it as much as she did. I was touched beyond words and tearfully accepted this incredibly generous gift. And I do cherish it, as I cherish the relationship I was blessed to have with this woman who treated me more like a daughter than a daughter-in-law.

The ladies are quite charming, each wearing a two-colored dress with parasol and bonnet to match. The colors of the dresses are beautifully matched. There doesn't appear to be any repetition in the fabrics; each block is unique. I'm sure if I were an expert, I would know something about whether that indicated that they were feed sacks, or possibly old aprons or dresses. I have not yet had it appraised, which would likely give me a bit more information. My best guess is that is was made some time in the 1940's, but even my mother-in-law couldn't remember exactly when she received it.

In each block, the center panel of the dress, the parasol, and the flowers are a solid fabric. 
The bonnet and skirt is always a print and lighter in value. 

She stands in an embroidered garden, with French knotted red flowers...
...and pinwheel blooms to match her parasol.
I just love her shoes! 
Her parasol is embroidered and "fringed" with French knots.
Each lady is looking away, her face hidden by her bonnet. And note the cute little bow at her neck.
My favorite belle in my favorite color
The back of the quilt
The entire quilt is appliquéd, embroidered, and quilted by hand. It is evident that much love went into each and every stitch. By quilt show judging standards, it may not be perfect, but the love in this quilt was indeed perfect. And the love expressed to me when my mother-in-law gave it to me was just as special.

I have done a tiny bit of research, trying to locate the source of the pattern. I know it was not original, because I found one picture of a quilt online with the same lady and flowers. (You can see it on our Pinterest page.) I was unable to determine who distributed the pattern, however.

According to Barbara Brackman, my Colonial Lady is a derivative of Sunbonnet Sue, (of whom ironically, I've never been a fan.) A similar lady is found in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Appliqué, along with several pages of bonneted girls and ladies. For more information about the colonial lady, read Barbara's blog, Old Fashioned Nostalgia. And for a good laugh, check out her recent blog, Colonial Lady: Wardrobe & Other Malfunctions. In comparison, my Ladies sure are elegant!

Recently, I have found a couple variations of the Colonial Lady in antique stores. Both were embroidered dresser scarves or table runners. One had a lovely crocheted skirt. On each, the Lady is mirrored on both ends of the scarves.

As lovely as my Colonial Lady quilt is, it is all the more special because of the story that those stitches tell. The story of the love of a favorite aunt for her young niece, and the love of that young niece grown to an old woman, passing that cherished heirloom onto her daughter-in-law. And someday it will certainly be passed on to future generations, who I pray will appreciate the stories these Ladies have to tell.


  1. The quilting on this is so beautiful--so many tinytiny stitches.

    1. Yes, Aunt Mae did a wonderful job. Though I never had the privilege of meeting her, I surely feel that I know something of her just seeing the care she put into making this quilt!

  2. Es tan hermoso y realmente es un testimonio de amor¡¡bellísimo!!

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