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Momma’s Closet
By Beverly Hicks Burch

In 1986 I took up needle and thread and began a mostly self taught journey on the road to becoming a quilter or as some of the more “artsy” of our kind call themselves, “textile artist”. I was greatly inspired by the work of my maternal great-grandmother, Rebecca Shaffer McGee. Even though she passed away in 1971 a few months shy of her 97th birthday she had a lasting influence on me...one I dare say she would be surprised…and I hope pleased to know about.

Becky, as she was called, raised 10 children…my grandfather included, who each in turn had children of their own. The family grew into a sizeable family and Becky and Dan (my great-grandfather) had a passel of grandkids.

In addition to raising her family Becky was renowned for a variety of things. She was a respected midwife in Lawrence County, Tennessee. Not only did she deliver a good number of the children of Lawrence County during those years, she also delivered the majority of that passel of grandbabies of hers…my Momma included. Becky was a top notch gardener…and she was a quilter. She made quilts for each of those grandbabies…no small feat if I might say so. This was in the day before rotary cutters and all the fancy bells and whistles we have that lend us ease and speed in our craft today.

Momma and her three siblings received Lone Star Quilts and it was the vibrant splashes of color in Mom’s quilt that gave me the latent quilting bug as a child. It lay dormant, incubating until 1986 when I couldn’t stand it any longer and I took my first tentative steps down my quilting journey.

Momma’s Lone Star is close to 45 - 47 years old now. She recalls her grandmother working on it when my youngest sister was a baby. At the time Becky was staying with my grandfather (Becky’s son) and grandmother. Mom said she remembers seeing her sit in a chair surrounded by boxes of her fabric. She would watch as Becky reached in the boxes for each piece to artfully put in its perfect place. The Lone Star itself is hand pieced, the extended background sections were added by machine…just proving that Grandmom did have enough sense to use the latest modern technology of her day to aid her in her work.
The morale here for all you quilters…don’t let anyone put you down if you machine piece instead of hand piece!

Momma's Lone Star - by Rebecca Shaffer McGee

Momma's Lone Star - Center Detail, by Rebecca Shaffer McGee

Momma's Lone Star - Fabric & Quilting Detail, by Rebecca Shaffer McGee

For a while it seemed like the quilting bug might have skipped a generation…or two. Mom had sewn dresses and such when we were little, but I had never seen Momma quilt. Then, not too long after I took up quilting, the bug bit Momma too, and she didn’t let moss grow under her feet. Even though she’s taken care of my mentally and physically disabled sister for over 40 years and become a grandmom herself, Mom found time to oil paint, tole paint, do needlepoint and amass a tidy little closet full of quilts and quilt tops waiting to be quilted. She’s like most of us quilters…she has plenty of UFO’s (UnFinished Objects) hovering around begging to be finished.

I didn’t realize…or had forgotten… just how many projects Mom had done until we were working in her new sewing room organizing things a little and arranging her new sewing closet. When I saw them, I knew it was time to take out the camera and start documenting (something I strongly recommend for you and yours). I realize I have to come up with a better way of displaying quilts when I photograph them, but until then preserving them in pictures is the important thing.

Documenting your quilts and the quilts in your family is extremely important! I would estimate thousands of quilts have been lost to the passage of time to families and their heirs because the quilts weren’t documented in one way or another. How many quilts can you think of in your family at this very moment that are laying around but no one has the slightest idea who the maker was or when the quilt was made? In addition to making a photographical record of your quilt, I strongly encourage you to label each and every project you undertake. Believe me, your heirs and future quilt makers will thank you!

So, in the spirit of sharing, I hope you enjoy the contents of Momma’s closet…

This was one of Momma's 1st projects

"Amish Spinning Stars", by Juanita Hicks. Mom made this wall hanging for a guild challenge.

Christmas Basket, by Juanita Hicks. This little wall hanging is waiting to be quilted. Mom is fond of Christmas pieces...as you will see!

Christmas Rail Fence, by Juanita Hicks

Christmas Rail Fence - Top Detail, by Juanita Hicks

Christmas Rail Fence - Border Detail, by Juanita Hicks

Christmas Sampler, by Juanita Hicks

Running Hearts, by Juanita Hicks. A table runner Mom made.

Pastel Nine Patches, by Juanita Hicks

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Pastel Nine Patches - Detail, by Juanita Hicks. Quilting by Beverly Hicks Burch

Peacock Mystery, by Juanita Hicks. This is Mom's mystery quilt. It's her finished top and a result of a class I taught. It's the same pattern as my Mystery quilt "Oh Say Can You See...It's A Mystery..." and my friend Shari's "Star....

Peacock Mystery - Detail, by Juanita Hicks

Peacock Mystery - Border Detail, by Juanita Hicks

Rose Corners. Mom won most of these blocks in a guild BOM drawing. She wants to make a few more to make the quilt larger.

Red & Green Applique. Another group of BOM that Mom won

Snowman in a Cabin, by Juanita Hicks

Chickens in a Barn. Mom is crazy about chickens!
© 2009 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Comment by Beverly Hicks Burch on October 25, 2009 at 6:32am
Thank you ladies! It's so kind of you to stop and take time to not only look but also to comment!

Everything you said adds to the dialogue concerning documenting, labeling and hand/machine quilting...

And thanks for the kind kudos regarding Momma's and my great-grandmother's quilt:)
Comment by AidaCJ/NH on October 23, 2009 at 8:26pm
Wow! Your family surely has the talent! Beautiful quilts. I've made dozens of quilts and gave them away mostly to relatives. I really should have taken pictures before they were gone, so at least I know what patterns I used. I still have the templates, but I couldn't remember which was given to who.
Comment by Linda Richards/N. Ontario on October 23, 2009 at 8:03pm
Beverly, what a treasure. Wonderful!
Comment by Ada Funnell on October 23, 2009 at 6:02pm
Thank you so much for sharing your mothers and great grandmothers quilts. The colours are so pretty and the samplers are great. The Christmas collection of material is wonderful considering it is not that may years that pretty Christmas material is available. I guess it will keep you busy to finishing the UFOis that are there. It is Take care and have a great week end.
Comment by Paula/TX on October 23, 2009 at 5:12pm
It is good to hear from you again, Beverly. Your mom has quite the collection of quilts.
Comment by Prairie Quilter Jan/NE on October 23, 2009 at 5:05pm
Great pictures and great tribute to your quilting heritage. PQ
Comment by AnnaBanana / GA on October 23, 2009 at 5:04pm
How wonderful to have both the quilts and their creator so you can 'get the story' behind each one! As for machine vs hand quilting, I'm thinking that the frugal, intelligent, hard-working women of our past would have laughed in utter hysterics at the thought of hand-quilting, if they had the tools, techniques and labor-saving devices we have now! They were making quilts for warmth, out of bits of fabric scrounged from garments that were otherwise unusable -- do we really think any of them would have scoffed at sewing a 5 ft border in 15 seconds instead of 15 minutes? Their fabulous use of mathematics, geometry, and color theory tells us they were smart. I believe they would have taken great delight in being able to complete a quilt in days instead of the months it must have taken, sewing a patch at a time by the fading light of the day, or by the light of a precious candle...no 'purists' there, I think!
Comment by Pam/NY on October 23, 2009 at 4:38pm
Thank you for sharing a little of your family quilting history!
Comment by Gayle/La. on October 23, 2009 at 4:20pm
How exciting to be able to see these. I wish I knew who made a few of the quilts I own that weren't labeled.You are right about making a label and record of our projects. Thanks for sharing.........

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