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My quilt from Great-Grandma Ruth

Posted by April Henry on

When I was a little girl, about 5-years-old, I took a trip with my parents to visit my Great-Grandma Ruth, who lived in a lovely little house on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle. It was a small craftsman style home, but very "English" in her style and nature. The front porch had a portable swing that I would enjoy sitting on - probably singing and swinging, fascinated that it was a "bench" and not a tire or schoolyard swing. She collected salt & pepper shakers, spoons as well as bells of all kinds.

Great-Grandma Ruth was also an avid quilter and had her quilt rack in the front room - always quilting by hand.  What I didn't realize, until now, is that she did all of her piecing by hand as well.  This one particular visit, she took us to the small bedroom where she had stacks of quilts in the small, narrow closet. My mother and I were told that we could each pick a quilt of choice. The backing and binding on the one I chose was as bubblegum pink as pink could get for a little girl who obsessed about pink (pink color crayons, dresses, paper, paints - I was totally in love with pink!). The 9-patch blocks on the other side (what I always called the backside because it wasn't "pink all over") were all sorts of colors and fabrics, several of which had been cut from my mother's clothes when she was small.  I did have one block that was my favorite and when I would arrange the quilt on my bed with the 9-patch side up, this block always had to be up by my head so I could look at it, touch it and play imaginary games of being the size of an ant and it being my fluffy, little playground... (with lots of flowers and lots of pink, of course).

This was my favorite block.  Although you can no longer see the pink, the fabric in the four corners was flocked and had little pink raised daisies that I could rub my fingers over.  Sadly, the pink and the raised flocking is all gone... only the orange daisies remain.

I used this quilt exclusively as my bed covering for several years, even when I shared a full-size bed with my sister.  Great-Grandma Ruth died when I was 10-years-old, but I have brought this quilt along with me wherever and whenever we moved.  It is quite tattered now, so I will be cutting and framing my favorite blocks and the area where my great-grandma hand embroidered her name.  This was her signature that she always gave each of her quilts.

I tell you all of this, because I believe it was the subliminal inspiration for the quilt I recently finished for my daughter (who is also named Ruth, by the way).  The name of the pattern for this quilt is called the "Great Granny Squared Quilt" (apropos, don't you think?) by Lori Holt.  Lori had a few photographs of the various projects that had a solid pink background and I thought it would be perfect for Ruthie's quilt, too.  The Moda Bella "Betty's Pink" background fabric coordinated well with the prints I had selected from Elea Lutz's "Milk, Flower, Sugar" line a couple of years ago. 

I decided to increase the size of the quilt from lap-size to a large twin or queen size because Ruthie's bed is rather high and requires a long drop.  It ended up fitting perfectly, with enough room to even tuck in her pillow.  While I used my little Singer Featherweight to piece this quilt together and then had it professionally quilted, I do think Great-Grandma Ruth would be pleased to know her tradition is continuing and heritage remembered... (She would probably be amazed at the fabric selections today, tools and how quilting has become an amazing national pastime!)  I did continue her tradition, however, of doing a hand-embroidered "quilt label".  I hope to also have stacks of quilts in a spare bedroom one day to freely give to our grandchildren and loved ones.

Quilt Size Increase Conversion from Lap to Large Twin / Queen Size Quilt

Total number of 12 1/2" blocks = 30 (5 blocks x 6 blocks)

Fabric A, B, C, D, E (cut as original pattern suggests)
Fabric F = 74, 5" squares (18 diamonds for border top and bottom; 19 diamonds for border both sides)
Fabric G = You'll end up with 33 strips according to cutting chart, but you'll need about 40 strips, so add 7 additional strips (for scrappy binding)

Background Yardage = 7 1/2 yards
Fabric H = 360 rectangles
Fabric I = 120 rectangles
Fabric J = 45 strips
Fabric K = 296 squares
Fabric L** = 4 to 6 strips WOF @ 2 1/2" wide (Inner boarder sides = 2 1/2" x 82 1/2")
Fabric M1** = 4 strips WOF @ 2 1/4" wide (Inner boarder, top & bottom = 2 1/4" × 72 1/2")
Fabric M2** = 6 strips WOF @ 2 1/2" wide (Outer border sides = 2 1/2" × 95")
Fabric M3** = 6 strips WOF @ 2 1/2" wide (Outer border, top & bottom = 2 1/2" x 85 1/2")
Fabric N = 8 1/2 yards (backing)

** L & M have strip width variations from original pattern to accommodate extra diamonds in diamond border

Final Full/Queen Quilt Top Measurement = 85 1/2" x 99"

Also, you will have some fabric squares leftover but probably not as many as you normally would if doing the original size. Keep this in mind if you wish to make the remaining items in book (as originally suggested with leftover pieces).


For those of you interested in making this fun quilt, we are now carrying the lovely pattern book in the shop.  It was very easy to follow and make, especially with it being all squares and small rectangles.  The "Great Granny Square" quilt will definitely be one I make again!  There are actually quite a few projects to make from the book, too! 

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  • April, as always, you are truly inspirational. I thank you and Carmon for tmsharing your family with all of us!

    Deborah Shahan on

  • I tear up easily, always have. Cried through your story. I have no evidence that any of my ‘grandmas’ quilted but they probably did, out of necessity. Makes me want to be ‘that’ quilting grandma. Thank you

    JL Treadwell on

  • Lovely story! I am currently making quilts for my 5 grandchildren. Something I love doing and a piece of our history together.
    Enjoy your newsletter and look forward to all the helpful hints. Wish you would come to Ontario Canada for some workshops. Lots of Featherweight owners here.

    Carolyn Pawson on

  • I loved the story. Every quilt has a story! Awesome! My great grandmother was also named Ruth. She was a dear Christian lady. I gave Shiloh the middle name Ruth after my great grandma.

    Peggy OLeary on

  • I love your story and the quilts!! I love the idea of embroidery labels! Thank you for sharing!!

    WhitneyBryce on

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