For the record book

Several weeks ago, I wrote about an afghan I finished for my husband’s grandmother, Laura Belle, who died last fall. I told you about her knitting but I probably should have started with her quilting. After all, Laura Belle only threw herself into knitting and crochet to keep her hands in shape once she moved into an apartment and gave up quilting. After she died, my father-in-law gave me several boxes of her crafting supplies. In them, I found a book I treasure more than anything else: her quilting records. Although she certainly made more in her life, Laura Belle began this log at the age of 60. The record book spans nearly thirty years of avid quilting and includes works she sold as well as ones she gave to family and friends.

Laura Belle's quilting records, 1972-2001

In some years, she turned out almost one quilt per month – all, of course, by hand. Each entry identifies the name of the pattern she used, the number of quilts she made with the pattern, the recipient, and the year she completed the work. In all, 113 quilts, crib-size to king-size, recorded on a mere five pages of notebook paper. It amazes me to see what amounts to a life’s work of quilting represented in such a small amount of space.

A life's work

One thing that remains constant throughout the book is her evident generosity as a hand crafter. Many times, she listed a quilt as one she made for herself but then later crossed that out to indicate the name of the person to whom she gave the work. I smiled to myself as soon as I noticed the pattern. How many times do we do this as knitters?

“What? You like my scarf? Why, yes, I made it. Why don’t you have it? After all, I can always make another one!”

We all know the joy of sharing a handmade gift with someone who will appreciate it. In many ways, I find knitting for an appreciative audience far more satisfying than knitting for myself. After all, I could always make myself that pair of socks, couldn’t I?

1975 and 1976 were busy years - nearly one quilt per month, completely by hand

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about Laura Belle and her quilts since I have been working on two gift quilts of my own this year. I completed the first one earlier this week.

What a Bunch of Squares quilt top

Pattern: I loosely followed the “What a Bunch of Squares” pattern from Quilts by Denyse Schmidt

Fabric: Squares are made from scraps of blue and orange prints and framed by Kona Cotton; the back is muslin with a long strip of randomly pieced leftovers

Size: Approximately 80″ x 108″

This was a housewarming present for a man known for his collection of really ugly ties. When I saw this fabric at a sidewalk sale this summer, I knew I had to try to use ugly tie-like fabrics.

The ugly tie block

My goal was to pair mismatched fabrics to yield a pretty quilt, regardless of how loud or peculiar the individual prints were. I am quite pleased with the result!

Irregular squares

For the backing, I collected remnants from two of the many prints and sewed them together at random to form a stripe to run the length of the quilt.

What a Bunch of Squares quilt back

Because a quilt of this size would never fit on my little sewing machine, I sent this to my local fabric store to be machine quilted.

What a Bunch of Squares quilt

With time, I grew more and more amazed by the enormity of Laura Belle’s five pages of records. This project took me five months to complete, although I sewed a seam or two here and there when I found a few moments of free time. Selfishly, I wish I could still show her my work. At the very least, I think she would laugh about the inspiration for this one! Regardless, I hope my quilt will provide as much joy to its new owner as Laura Belle’s quilts offer me and Aaron. Perhaps it is time for me to start a record book of my own, short and paltry though it will assuredly be!

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23 comments so far

  1. Bertha on

    Wow, what a great story. The record book is amazing! So is your finished quilt!

  2. kodachrome on

    I love this post. Thanks for sharing your own record book/blog with us readers.

  3. Danielle on

    Oh, Elinor, this is a beautiful story. Laura Belle is definitely watching over you and laughing with you about the “ugly tie” quilt.

  4. Trish on

    Wow – this is amazing! I certainly hope our granddaughters will see our knitting blogs and flickr photos – and follow in our footsteps as well. Too bad we can’t make blog record books – or can we?

    That quilt is amazing! Quilts and hand-knits are just the most amazing and thoughtful gifts.

    Beautiful work!

  5. Theresa on

    That is gorgeous – so inspiring!

  6. LizKnits on

    I love your quilt … and what a great piece of history to have for inspiration!

  7. Nora on

    Beautiful story and quilt – Laura Belle would be proud.

  8. liz K on

    That record book is a treasure. It makes you wonder what our descendants are missing out with us blogging…

    And the quilt — amazing.

  9. gleek on

    what a lovely post to the memory of laura belle. i just love the photos of the record book. it pleases me to no end! :)

    your quilt is great! i didn’t realize that you could farm out the machine quilting part. hmmmm, that gives me ideas!

  10. Becky on

    Laura Belle’s record book is the kind of thing that local historical societies like to have. Or university library women’s studies collections. I’m sure you don’t want to part with it, but you should think about donating it at some point down the road, or at least see if someone is interested.

  11. terhi on

    What a lovely story, and a gorgeous quilt! I’m sure she would be proud of you.

  12. Melissa on

    Oh wow, your quilts look amazing. And what a lovely book you have there – I love all the notes an the history of it.

  13. Ann on

    The quilt is so lovely & I love reading about Laura Belle – she is an amazing crafter!

  14. grumperina on

    Ah, it’s the original Ravelry!!!

  15. Kat on

    Stunning quilt. But what really takes my breath away is Laura Belle’s notebook.

  16. Daniela on

    I hold dear my knitting skill…
    Today, I think, hand-made gifts are things made with the “heart”, things on which a person put energy,emotions… It’s a great gift when someone give me an hand-made gift, I always appreciate it so much.
    And I also think that today, in our world that is always so materialistic, it’s a pleasure to know someone able to do something only using his hands.
    The book you’ve shown is great… Laura Belle was great

  17. Andrea on

    What a lovely story and a beautiful momento. I have my grandmother’s recipe box and I love to thumb through it and see the notes and changes she made while cooking…I only wish she had kept a record of her sewing and knitting.

  18. Amy on

    What a treasure! And I love the theme of your quilt. :)

  19. twinsetellen on

    Laura Belle would have been a heckuva blogger, and she would have loved that quilt. I do, too!

  20. Alicia on

    Lovely quilt, and lovely story! Beautiful colors, my favorite!

  21. diana on

    What a great post and what a beautiful quilt!

  22. kelly on

    That book is such a treasure! Your quilt turned out lovely – five months is more my kind of speed.

  23. Jenni on

    Quilting too?! I love it. The back sides of quilts can be so boring…..great idea. I have quilts I’ve worked on for years so five months seems fast!


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