My sister has been managing the monumental downsizing and moving process for my parents throughout this past year. Earlier this spring, I spent a week in Virginia helping her, mainly sorting through personal things, which included my mother's very full sewing room. My sister had already done most of the work in the rest of the house, going through closets and storage areas and had assembled a box of "Elizabeth's Stuff", which she had waiting for me when I arrived.
The most special of it's contents was my embroidered baby quilt! I remember using it with my dolls as a young girl, even though as a crib quilt it was a bit large for my dolls. There were some slight discolorations and the stitching on one edge was coming undone, but in general, it has held up well. I was shocked that I had forgotten about it but very happy to have it back, thanks to my sister!
I recognized both the layout and the embroidered motifs right away, having closely examined the stitches as a child as I played with the quilt. Now I recognized them as being very similar in style to the many Aunt Martha's embroidery transfers that had made their way to my mom's sewing stash from my grandmother's house years ago. I just assumed that my grandmother had made the quilt. But then I started quizzing my mom about the origins of the motifs and researching the style of the layout. She wasn't exactly positive that my grandmother had made it. She recalled playing with one of her sisters under their mother's quilt frame while it was set up in their house, but only as a young girl. After that time she said her mother didn't make many quilts. Then I realized that all of those embroidery transfers we had sorted through were way older than me, from around the 1930's and not likely the ones used on this quilt, which was made in the late 1960's.
My sister also has a similar baby quilt, made 5 years earlier than mine, and she suggested calling our Aunt Linda, who is 18 years younger than my mother. She was still living at or very close to home when I was born and my sister thought she might know which relative made these quilts.
As soon as I asked her she said "I made it."
Really? Wow, well, thank you! I'm so glad I called. Of course she made my sister's quilt as well and at least one other one for my cousin who is just 1 week older than me. This discovery now seems so obvious as my Aunt Linda has always been my "crafty" aunt. She's an amazing, creative and prolific quilter and seamstress, who also made us numerous dolls and home and holiday decor items over the years. No surprise that she also made my son his baby quilt and then another one that he still uses. So much evidence of her being the mystery baby quilt maker was right under my nose!
When I asked about the embroidery transfer designs, she explained that each embroidered panel was pre-printed with the design. She did all of the embroidery, which is really finely and beautifully done, and then pieced the squares together and quilted it by hand.
In researching this style of baby quilt, I found several examples that would indicate they were fairly common from the 1930's through the early 1970's, although embroidered quilts go back a lot further than that. Many old and new variations can be found on Pinterest searching "vintage embroidered baby quilt". A few dated samples were found here and here and here.
However, I love mine the best. I know and love the maker and that she made this quilt for me just for being born. That alone is enough. But I also like knowing that it was an early quilt in a long lifetime of making quilts and other things for all of us which is part of her story, the quilt's story, and now mine too. I am grateful I got the chance to learn the story and to thank her.