Friday, February 22, 2008

Show and Tell Friday: My Heirloom UFO

I'd like to thank Sherry, at The Journey Back, for inviting me to join in "Show and Tell Friday" over at Kelli's House. I thought of several things I could share for my first Show and Tell post, but my thoughts finally came around to quilting (of course!) and one of my most-treasured possessions, my "heirloom UFO."

In quilter-speak, a UFO is an UnFinished Object, something which most quilters have in abundance. This particular UFO is a special one, though, as it was started by my mother in 1947 and is still a work-in-progress.

My mom was only fifteen when she decided on a whim to make a Sunbonnet Sue quilt, based on the one her sister had on her bed. She proceeded to cut 160 little pieces from my grandmother's sewing scraps, and even basted down the edges on many of them before losing interest and packing all of the tiny pieces away.

The truly amazing thing is that my mother (who became an Air Force wife) hung onto all those pieces for nearly fifty years -- through five children and countless moves across the country -- before passing them on to my sister and me. That was in the early 1990's, when I was busy with two small children of my own. Still, I was excited to pick up the project where my mother had left off.

My mother still remembers many of the fabrics used in these Sunbonnet Sue pieces, and from where they came. Scraps from Grandma's aprons, dresses my mother and her sisters wore, feedsacks from the grain elevator that Grandpa's family owned and operated. Here's a photo of my mom, wearing a dress made from the very same red/white striped fabric that Sunbonnet Sue is wearing:

My heirloom UFO is overflowing with sentimental value. My grandmother passed away before I was born, and working with these little scraps of fabric that she handled at one time makes me feel close to her, though we never had the chance to meet in person. And imagining my mom, so young, having this sudden inspiration to make a quilt, gives me a lot of insight into myself and my spontaneous ways!

I've been working on these blocks, off and on, ever since -- and they still aren't finished! These are the blocks I've finished appliqueing so far. I'm over half-way there. My sister and I each received pieces to make eighteen blocks:

So, this UFO is now over 60-years-old -- an unfinished heirloom! But I hope to see the finished product in my (and my mom's) lifetime. My plan is to make two quilts, one for each of my daughters, in hopes that they inspire in them the same feeling of connectedness to generations of women in my family.

Show and Tell

For more Show and Tell, please visit There is No Place Like Home.


jennifer said...

So wonderful! I have an umbrella girl quilt that my grandmother made for me. If you are ever interested in making one, let me know and I will photograph a square and email it to you! I love the significance of the fabric used. So many people have had photographs to go with their posts today. I have enjoyed it. Jennifer

It's All Good! said...

That was an awesome story. I love the way each piece tells a story and helps broaden your memories of family who has passed on. Have a great weekend.

Constance said...

Welcome to S&T! I love the story behind your post! I have some quilt pieces from my Great Grandma Lizzie (Her photo is on my sewing machine I posted today) and I have thought the same thing about her hands and all of the attentiona nddetail that has gone into them!

Penless Thoughts said...

What a wonderful story and project. I had a friend who finished a 3rd generation quilt. Her grandmother started it, her mother worked on it and she finally finished it. One for each daughter will be wonderful.

Constance said...

Thanks for stopping by! I looked at your SINGER and the paint on it is gorgeous! Sadly, they don't make things like this anymore! I should've showed mine opened too, it's in beautiful shape! A lot of machines you have to manually lift the machine up because it's laying on its side. Mine just rises up out of the bottom when you open it! I got it at an anitique mall in Illinois about 12 years ago and for only $70!

Jillian said...

Well, I learned something new today, thanks to your show and tell! (UFO's)

I have lots of them, although not involved with quilting. I do hope you finish this project and will show us someday soon for another Show n Tell!

TJ said...

How wonderful! I'm not a quilter, but last week my S&T was a Sunbonnet sue quilt my mother in law made. She embroidered the Sunbonnet Sue's though. I received UFO's from my grandmother's sewing stash. Unfortunately I don't quilt. I'm glad you are able to work on the UFO.

MammyT said...

Well, it looks wonderful to me! I hope you can finish it, and if you run out of pieces, include some scraps from this generation. That would be fun. Glad you joined us for Show and Tell today.

MyJourneyBack said...

Oh wow how really cool that you have this wonderful heirlome and that you have the photo of the dress and fabric. It would be awesome to save and share. Thanks for sharing. And thanks for mentioning me so sweet of you. I am glad you went to visit Kelli. Isn't it fun. This weekend I'll be crazy busy but hopefully I will sit down soon and look at all your entries and look for quilts! Have a great weekend.
Blessings, Sherry

Jewelgirl said...

Great UFO! I have some of those
projests in a closet somewhere,
but not somethings that means
alot to me. I think it would be
great to finish the quilts for
your daughters - very special
quilt from you and grandma!

WillThink4Wine said...

I just loved this. It already has such a wonderful history and a promising future!

I use to quilt, but I made my last 2 when my 8 year old twin nephews were on the way. Technically, one of those 2 is still a UFO. I never quite got around to finish the hand quilting. Thanks for the inspiration! He's autistic and would still enjoy a quilt!

cherished*vintage said...

I loved reading the story of your "UFO"! There is a lot of love and thought into it already even though it hasn't been completed. The picture of your mom in the striped dress is a wonderful keepsake too. Thanks for sharing!!

Lynne said...

You will certainly have something to be very proud of and cherished when you are done. I still have the quilt my mom made me when I was a girl. It is made from fabric scraps and is so full of memories. Those really are the best quilts! :-D

Gattina said...

I am not a Quilt fan, but I loved your story ! so nice to read with my morning coffee. Unbelievable that it was started when I was 4 years old and is not yet finished when I approach the 65, lol ! It's very romantic in my eyes !
BTW yes I have a cat collection of about 400 pieces (only, lol)

Rick Rack Attack said...

I have a sunbonnet sue tablecloth & potholder. what fun! i love your work in preogress!

You can visit my show & tell at

Sharon said...

What a wonderful family treasure! I really hope you can get it done. The history behind it is just amazing! I love the picture of your mother by the tree, it is just so cute!

:0) Sharon

mistyeiz said...

what a lovely family heirloom!! i know what its like to take that long to complete an UFO. ;) my mum started this patchwork with her pupls in school and they would bring it out to do bit by bit after each school term - the last couple of days before school is officially out n if memory serves me right, it started in the late 60's, early 70's n it was never finished until i found in the early 90's n took up the yoke to finish it. we really did finally finish it n now my sis is using it as her blanket. ;)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful quilt and story! Your quilt reminds me of one my formerly-Amish friend made for her daughter. It's neat to pass heirlooms on from one generation to the next.

Tammy said...

I just loved this! I'm not a quilter but I so admire anyone who does this!
Love the sweet photo!


~~ said...

I just love the vintage photo. You are a wonderful quitler. I still haven't learned piece work but would love to!

Farrah said...

That's such a neat story!! I never learned to sew, so I always admire people who do. It will make a wonderful keepsake for your girls.

Carol E. said...

What a great story! I'm not a big SBS fan, but with that history I would love the quilt immensely. Have fun with it.

Kelli said...

Oh my goodness, what a wonderful show and tell!!! I love sunbonnet sues and how special that your mother remembers where the fabrics came from and the photos are wonderful too! I would love to see the finished pictuers!

Cheryl said...

What an amazing treasure you've wonderful!

mrsjojo said...

Get busy girl and finish the UFO!! I think it is wonderful that you have the photo of your mom in the dress of the same fabric on one of the squares-what a treasured heirloom you have to finish for your girls. I would love to see the finished project.

Mommy said...

What a sweet show and Tell. Sun Bonnet Sues always makes me have the warm fuzzy feeling. :)

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