There are several things that I remember about visiting my Grandma Frances when I was young; Grandma was petite, standing only about 4’6” short and living alone in her spacious farmhouse. She was small but very active and just a bit feisty if one chose to disagree with her or tease her about something.
The upstairs of her home was pretty much shut off because she didn’t need that much space. She had plenty of room for her small self in the lower living quarters.
In her kitchen, the cabinets, sink, and countertops had all been custom built for her miniature size. The kitchen was definitely the heart of her home. I don’t think I ever saw her front door opened, because everyone, family, friends, and neighbors, knew to enter through the side kitchen door. Also, come to think of it...I don’t remember anyone ever knocking either. It was pretty much a revolving door for the many that came to see her in her dollhouse sized kitchen.
Grandma Frances was an excellent cook, so it was fitting that she spent her time in the kitchen. There was usually an aroma of something baking, or having been recently prepared. Of course, she didn’t consume all of this food…otherwise she would not have been my “Little Grandma.”
There was another distinct smell that I remember in her home, not a bad smell, but always noticeable. It was the scent of mothballs. To this day whenever I get a whiff of mothballs, I think of her.
I’m not sure why the mothball smell was so apparent all of the time. One theory that I had was that she must be storing about a million quilts in the upstairs of her home. I pictured it stuffed right up to every dormer window with all of the fabric, thread and needles to make more.
I had this theory about a massive amount of quilts being upstairs because there was never a time when I visited that there was not a large quilting frame set up on one side of her large front room. This area of her living room that was dedicated to quilting was adjacent to the kitchen in which she mostly dwelled. So, it was a safe bet that if she wasn’t in the kitchen, she could be found there.
The quilting frames were not left bare but were laden with colorful cotton material and the tight intricate stitching creatively functioning to hold it together and further decorate it. My grandmother did not usually quilt alone. She had the quilt set up and ready to go for when the other ladies in her quilting circle would come to add their stitches.
I’m sure that they must have made hundreds of quilts over the years. I do know that most of the quilts did not become merely stored upstairs. Most times, the quilting was being done for someone specific or for a specific cause. Sometimes the quilt was for a wedding, sometimes for an new baby and sometimes it was to be donated to be auctioned off in a fundraiser to one charity or another.
There is quite an extensive history of American quilts and quilting throughout the ages. A lot of quilts are not just stitched together for bedding and warmth, but for some other purpose as well.
Recently, we celebrated Utah’s State Holiday of Pioneer Day. Pioneer women and the quilts they made are an example of how quilts can come to have more meaning.
As women prepared to travel west, they stitched together many quilts for their journey. Quilts were not only used as a blankets, but were used as padding on hard wagon seats over miles of bumpy ground, they were used to wrap any babies born on the plains, and when the tragedy of death to a member of their company occurred, pioneers found some comfort in wrapping the bodies for burial in a precious quilt that had been stitched with love and purpose.
Of course quilting wasn’t done on the pioneer trail, with the exception of an occasional block of fabric to join to others later, but after Pioneer women arrived at their destination, many quilted using patterns to tell the stories from their long journey. On these quilts, you can find symbols of their experience like wagon wheels, pine trees, trails, and other designs from nature.
This is just one example of how precious quilts can become to an individual. Like Linus with his ever-present blanket, a quilt can bring a sense of comfort to the recipient of the quilt. As it is passed down from one generation to another, the quilt tells a story, has a history or has other special meaning in its stitches.
Next week will be the annual Morgan County Fair. The art of quilting has been a big part of county fairs for generations. This year is no exception.
County Councilmember Tina Kelley has reported in the county council meetings leading up to the fair that there will be a quilt sale on the last day of the fair to raise money for the Fairgrounds. The council is looking for donations of quilts to support this cause.
If you would like to donate a quilt to support the fairgrounds, please contact Tina Kelley or another member of the Morgan County Council. There is a reminder of this quilting for a cause project on page 11 of this newspaper.