Of the many items my mother sewed for me, the one I most often wish I still had is a doll’s quilt she fashioned from scraps of fabric. When I visualize the quilt in my memory, I see 3-inch squares of print fabric sporting, here and there, figures in red and blue. The predominant colors were green and yellow — her favorite colors.
I have no idea where she might have obtained the fabric for the doll quilt, but knowing her resourcefulness, she might have asked her eight sisters-in-law for scraps, or she might have taken the scissors to outgrown sunsuits and dresses my sister and I once had worn. Thrifty woman that she was, she wouldn’t have bought fabric for such a small project.
Though I don’t recall her making the quilt, I know she sewed it on the New Home treadle sewing machine she inherited from her grandmother. She tied the quilt with yarn. Perhaps the quilt was a Christmas or birthday gift — that I don’t recall.
But I do remember wrapping my Sparkle Plenty doll (a doll made in the likeness of a child character from Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy cartoon). The doll had bright yellow hair done up in twin ponytails and wore a dark blue jumpsuit with a white collar and a red belt. I knew from reading Dick Tracy cartoons in the newspaper that Sparkle was the daughter of Gravel Gertie and BO Plenty.
Although we both preferred to play with my brother’s trucks in the dirt pile — or read his comic books, including Dick Tracy — my sister and I spent many afternoons dragging our dolls around the house wrapped in old receiving blankets or the doll quilt my mother had made. This was in the early ’50s when little girls were expected to play with dolls and little boys were expected to play with trucks. Even then, my sister and I thought that idea was just plain silly. Trucks and building roads in the dirt were way more fun than having our sandbox style cramped by lugging around pretend babies that had to take naps, be fed, dressed, bathed and rolled around in a carriage. Dolls were reserved for when we couldn’t be outdoors playing hopscotch, jumping rope, pretending to be cowgirls, explorers, movie stars or characters from books we read.
Eventually, we outgrew dolls and the quilt, too, went by the wayside, though never abandoned because I kept the quilt until well into my adult years.
I don’t know if the doll quilt was the first my mother ever sewed, but I do know that she didn’t care much for sewing, even though she had learned how from her grandmother, an expert seamstress, and how to draw her own patterns, from scratch, on newspaper. She also sewed clothing for my sister and me, and our dolls.
The only other quilt, that I know of, my mother had a part in making was in the ’80s — a quilt billed as a “quilt-in-a-day,” featuring a large, eight-point star in the center. My mother, sister and I cooperated to cut out the pieces, which I sewed together. My sister, who disliked sewing, allowed my mother and I to wrangle her into helping us tie the quilt’s three layers together. I applied the band of fabric to finish the edges using the same sewing machine on which my mother had sewn my doll’s quilt. That quilt I still have.
The magic of quilts, even if they are no longer present in one’s life, is the nostalgia they evoke. Quilts call forth memories of what is best in family life and relationships — cooperation, sharing, having fun together while creating something lasting, teaching and learning, and pride of accomplishment.
To share stories or photos of homemade doll quilts, mail or email them to me, or post them at bangordailynews.com.
Go to seammaine.blogspot.com to learn more about Sewing Enthusiasts and Artists of Maine. The gatherings of those who love to work with fabric and create art are hosted by fabric stores Alewives in Nobleboro, Fiddlehead Artisan Supply in Belfast and Z Fabrics in Portland. Meetings are held bimonthly at one of the shops.
The SAD 22 Adult Education Program in Hampden offers these craft classes:
• Crocheting rag rugs and baskets with instructor Beverly Richards, 6-8 p.m. Wednesdays, beginning April 24, for three weeks. The cost is $25 plus $20 for supplies.
• Ukranian egg dyeing with instructor Linda Kehr, 5:30-8 p.m. Thursdays, beginning April 11, for six weeks. The cost is $40 plus $20 for supplies, or $10 for supplies to returning students.
Both classes will be held at Reeds Brook Middle School in Hampden. For information, call the adult education office at 862-6422. To register online, go to http://orono-hampden.maineadulted.org.
Call Ardeana Hamlin at 990-8153 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to visit her blog at byhand.bangordailynews.com.