Last week I showed you the quilt my mother made for me when I was four. I shared how she intended it to be a record of all the things I loved best at that age. That was only the first quilt she made specifically for me. The next one I received was when I turned thirteen. She figured, aside from being a bit worn, my old purple quilt might be getting a little babyish. She offered me a quilt to mark my life as I entered teendom. I had a yellow room and a fascination with rainbows so I wanted a yellow quilt with a rainbow on it. Mom said she could applique a rainbow onto the quilt top but I was not too fond of the look of applique. At the time, I think I regarded that as very old fashioned looking. Mom decided to go back to fabric paint to suit my fancy.
By the time I turned 13, my single mother had been working in a garment factory for many years. I don't mind telling you the factory owner was a scum who had no compunction about directing those under him to cut his workers' piece rates and make those changes retroactive so he didn't have to pay employees any more than minimum wage even if, like my mom, they worked hard to produce enough to earn more than that. What does that have to do with quilts? Well, while the workers were being cheated out of honestly earned pay, big chunks of fabric were regularly being thrown out as garbage. My mother had gotten permission from her supervisor to take as much of the waste fabric as she herself could carry for her personal use. She once made a queen sized quilt top out of only TWO pieces of those "scraps" from the factory. But I digress....
Typically, a quilt is like a sandwich. It has a backing layer of fabric, a decorative top, and batting sandwiched between those two layers. The quilting stitches are what hold all the layers together. My quilt was unusual in its construction. It was also made from factory scraps. The top was actually a plain yellow bed sheet which was tacked to the back. The back was a grid of individual 4 inch pillows which had been joined together. Mom had taken piles of scraps home, cut them into squares and hauled them back to work. During her lunch break she'd sit and sew them all together by making a pillow out of two squares, stuffing it with batting, then sewing up the final side before joining it to another already completed pillow.
When my 13th birthday rolled around she presented me with the quilt back and the quilt front which had not yet been joined together. She waited to add the front because for my birthday she was allowing me to have 10 girls sleep over and she wanted each of the girls to sign the quilt top before she completed the whole thing. You can see some of the signatures along the edge.
Historically, quilts have very often been made out of whatever leftover fabric women had from making garments or even from worn out garments themselves. Resourcefulness allowed for scraps that may have had no use otherwise to be made into something both beautiful and practical. The source for materials for this my quilt was unusual and there wasn't any hand needlework but I'd still say my mom's creativity and resourcefulness provided a nice warm quilt that appealed to my 13 year old eye.