Heirlooms, Passed Through Generations, Part 1


When most people hear that word, they immediately think of museum pieces worth thousands. The truth of the matter is that few of us have inherited heirlooms of that calibre, but we do inherit objects of immeasurable sentimental value.

Not long ago, I read a conversation on line about various items that people had inherited from generations gone by. One person commented that we live in times that encourage us more to throw things away than to treasure, re-use and pass on. She lamented the fact that she had no family treasures to pass on to her own family.

I feel very blessed when it comes to family heirlooms. Not one of them would bring in much money, but I am thankful that my ancestors cared for and passed them down and that I am the current caretaker before they move on once again.

My next few posts will share some of the family mementos that I treasure. Thinking about this topic has made me start to wonder what I will pass on from my own lifetime.

After Dave’s grandmother passed away in 1989, his dad went back to Oklahoma to help his sister clean out the house. Pearl not only had a PILE of old photos, she had some other things that surprised Ed. She had a gardening shed in her backyard and he went out to empty it out, expecting to find gardening tools.

There were indeed some tools, but he also found three “blankets” rolled up and stored out there. These “blankets” were actually three quilts hand sewn by Minnie Mae Williams, mother of Pearl. Being in the gardening shed, one would expect that these old cotton quilts would have been stained, rubbed through with holes and perhaps insect infested. Amazingly, the only stains were there due to nature – the batting consisted of natural cotton and some of the seeds left inside the quilt had decomposed through the years, not a single rip to be found in any of the quilts, and no bugs had made them their homes.

Other family members showed little interest in these quilts, except for you-know-who. I had them appraised years ago, although quilt values have dropped since then. However, I did learn that Minnie Mae was an excellent quilter. They are all hand sewn and the fabrics date from the 1920’s and 1930’s. Minnie Mae passed away in 1945, but none of the family really knew anything about how long she had been quilting.

Take a look. the first quilt is made of plain cotton muslin and colored fabric scraps. They were likely sewed during the Depression years so usable pieces of fabric would not have been thrown away.


Minnie Mae’s Scrap Quilt

This quilt measures 68 x 76 inches. Even standing on the bed with the quilt on the floor, I couldn’t get the hole thing in the picture. The colors in it remain strong and the quilt is in excellent condition.

Seeing the back of this quilt, one can appreciate how many hand stitches went into making this. Minnie Mae’s stitches are small and evenly spaced, the mark of a good quilter.

The second quilt features mostly blue fabric again paired with plain cotton muslin. It measures 66 x 73 inches and, again, is hand sewn.

Minnie’s blue quilt

I love all three quilts, but this one is terrific:

Minnie’s Yo-Yo Quilt

This is a yo-yo quilt and each of those individual circles, called yo-yos, is tacked on four sides to the other yo-yos. I couldn’t come close to capturing this one in a photo as it measures 81 x 99 inches. It is made up of 36 blocks, each with 36 yo-yos within, and a pink yo-yo border. I wonder if Minnie Mae was working on this quilt when she died because two adjoining sides have a 2-row border, but there is no border on the other two sides. I would have expected at least a third side with a border if the top of the quilt was to be placed under pillows.

Tomorrow, more family heirlooms.

2 thoughts on “Heirlooms, Passed Through Generations, Part 1”

  1. These are great quilts! It’s surprising that they were in such good shape after being stored in a shed. I most especially like the pattern of the blue one. I wonder how long it took Minnie to make the yo-yo quilt. Perhaps she stitched while listening to the radio or visiting with family members (unless she was alive after TV was invented). Thanks for sharing.

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