Thursday, June 28, 2018

A Quilty Family Reunion


Every quilt tells a story, but there is nothing like a quilt that tells a story of family, and the caring that is stitched into a quilt by your loved ones. If you have followed our blog for a few years, you may remember my (Teri's) posts about our reunion quilts, made by a group of my extended family each year to be given to a reunion attendee. There is always one bed-sized quilt, several smaller quilts for the children in various age groups, and a traveling quilt with blocks made by each family unit. It is wonderful to sit and visit with family, but it is equally enjoyable to see who wins the quilt each year.

A cousin had put together a photo album of the reunion quilts over the years, and it was fun to look through it and see the great times the quilting group has had preparing these quilts. If I just lived closer, I would so love to be able to join in the fun! I enjoyed looking through it with my two great-aunts and hearing some of their tales and memories.

Here are a few of the pages:

The first page included a photo of my grandmother, not long before she died, and her sister, who just died last summer at about 97 years of age. They were helping their sister,  Leona—who spearheaded this project over the years—to tie a Christmas quilt she'd made for her family. Never having seen my grandma quilt, it was a thrill to see this photo. The photo on the right shows two of the very first quilts made: the wall-hanging on the left was won by my parents and now hangs in my bedroom, and the original traveling family quilt on the right, with photo transfers of old family photos.

The first bed-sized quilt to be given away at the reunion

This Postage Stamp quilt, from 2003, was one of my favorites. Such an enormous amount of work went into this quilt! The heart quilt, above right, was one of the first quilts to be made to raise a donation for the American Heart Association: a small donation gets your name in the drawing for this quilt. 

This was the only quilt I ever helped to work on, and I only made it for the first session to help cut out the fabric. This one was made from men's shirts from family members. I was thrilled to have been a tiny part of the venture. Even the men contribute (not counting their shirts!)—you can see the "expert needle-threaders" on the bottom right. 
I loved that the close-up of that quilt included scraps from two of my husband's shirts and one of my dad's. Here it is basted and ready to be hand-quilted.

My Great-Aunt Leona, the youngest of my grandmother's siblings, shared that these blocks were based on photos from their family farm. She says she still has the bells from the sleigh pictured above. I think I must have missed that year; sadly, I don't remember seeing these beautiful appliqué blocks to study closely. What a great way to preserve family history!!

After lunch, the fun begins, and names are pulled for the lucky winners. I love how the entire group gathers to see who is going to win these cherished mementos of our family reunions. The children's age groups all received "quillows" this year—quilts that can fold into pillows. My own son won one of these one year, and I still have it for my grandchildren to use.


The Traveling Quilt lives with a different family each year and is returned to the reunion for the drawing the following year. It comes complete with the quilt stand!

The big reveal: opening up the big quilt for all to see. Aunt Leona is telling the story of this quilt, while the other quilters are holding it up for all to see. (A couple of the quilters were unable to attend.)

One of my favorite parts of each quilt is the 
heart-shaped label, documenting the story of the quilt. 

Don't they look proud of their work? This is truly a labor of love!!

This year's winner was my Great-Uncle Clark; here, he is studying his prize...

...and here, he's surrounded by his wife, Bonnie, on the left; his daughter, Nancy, behind him; and his sister, Leona, on the right. Aunt Bonnie told me that they always thought it was interesting that none of the quilters had ever won a quilt. Happily, this one will go home with her; it was won by one of the master needle-threaders!

I am still waiting to take one of these gems home with me, but I have many memories of past reunions in the treasures that I have acquired. To realize that this cake stand wall-hanging was one of the first gives me cause to cherish it all the more. (Thanks, Mom and Dad for passing it on to me!) 

Each year, I am inspired by the love that these women put into their stitching, and I know that we all hold dear the fruits of their labors. They share their passion for quilts by planning time to stitch together, but with the selfless motivation to give their work to others. What better treasure than to wrap up in a quilt stitched with love by your family?

If you are interested in reading more about this tradition and seeing other quilts from past reunions, check out the following posts: