The Depression Quilt My Grandmother Made

Grandma's Depression Quilt

Grandma's Depression Quilt

Grandma’s Depression Quilt

My grandmother lived through the Great Depression. She was a child then and she, very rarely, told occasional snippets of what it was like. One thing that stuck with me was that her father was so proud that he let his family go hungry rather than accept assistance, which he called a “hand-out.” I have very mixed feelings about that. On the one hand having pride and wanting to pay your own way is admirable. On the other hand, if you are out of work through no fault of your own, is it really all that admirable to make your children go hungry for the sake of your own pride?

Those are my thoughts because grandma never complained. She mentioned these things to let us know how difficult things were back then and how proud people were and how desperate people had to be before they looked to the government for help. Grandma never judged anyone. She talked about how my great uncles, her brothers would make machines out of bits and pieces of scrap they found laying around. Nothing went to waste. My grandmother could look at an empty refrigerator and somehow make supper for 4. Hot buttered noodles with a bit of garlic are delicious.

One year for Christmas, in fact the first Christmas I spent with my new husband after my marriage, my Grandmother sent me a depression quilt she’d made for us that year. My Grandmother had terrible arthritis when she made this quilt and it is one of the most beautiful quilts I’ve ever seen. She made it by using a worn out top sheet from a king sized bed as the backing. For the top she stitched together a myriad of scraps and pieces from her sewing bag. The note she included with this wonderful gift explained that this is how quilts were made during the depression.

People couldn’t afford to buy blankets so women returned to the old ways of making quilts from scraps and blocks of cloth. Quilting became a big thing during the depression because it was something that women could make a living doing and it was a social thing too. Patterns were shared and tips and tricks printed in local newspapers. Many quilt patters were old family patterns and they have identifiable geometries. Not so the one my Grandmother made for me. This kind of depression quilt is special. It literally uses whatever scraps can be found in a sewing bag. For this kind of depression quilt, quilters used pieces from worn out clothing, old worn jackets, trousers, blankets and anything else they could get bits of cloth from. This made these kinds of quilts completely unique and individual. It is a beautiful gift, full of love and thoughtfulness.

There is something very special about a quilt that someone makes for you. I think there really is love in every stitch. It’s a tangible expression of my Grandmother’s love for us and I think of her fondly every time I put it on the bed. Yes, I use it. It was meant to be used and I love it. Maybe the day will come when I put it away, preserve it for future generations but for now it was made to be used and I think of Grandma and her love and how much I love her every time I put it on the bed. K.