Saturday, October 29, 2011


'Course, one cool night June must ask her [his sister, Edith, who was visiting] if she had plenty of covers and she asked me for another and I had no more, or thought I hadn’t, but there was a woolen one folded on the springs at the head, but I’d forgotten it. Bertha Dobson, June 2, 1936

Quilt Experts, I need your advice.

These are pictures of the only old "Dobson" quilt I have. Mike found it in the shed and asked what I wanted to do with it. We agreed it shouldn't be in the shed, but I really don't know how to clean or store it.

I'm afraid it's been years since this quilt has been treated with respect. Fact is, we originally found it between the mattress and springs on one of the beds. I had another such quilt, perhaps a little more appealing than this one, which had also been placed between mattress and springs,but it was stolen from the farmhouse before we started the re-model project.

So, this is the only quilt I have that Grandma Ina might have made. From her letters I know that Ina was a sewist. She made dresses and aprons, altered and mended, turned shirt collars, made quilt tops, and even created some fun items, such as a doll to muffle the sound of a ticking clock -- all on a treadle sewing machine.

As you can see by the pictures, this patchwork quilt is embellished with hand embroidery and tied rather than quilted. Perhaps some of the fabric was re-purposed. Only one piece is a deviation from the rough homespun type, and it's a lovely black velvet. It's hard to distinguish it from the other black pieces.

The other quilt -- the one that was stolen -- looked to have been made from men's suiting. The pieces were dark --drab even -- but again the hand stitches were a dressy touch. And, in the midst of all that "drabbery," one small bright red velvet piece made an elegant statement. 

So, should I have the old quilt cleaned and use it? Or, should I have it cleaned and display it on a bed or a quilt stand? Or, maybe I should forgo cleaning in deference to its age. I could store it if I knew how, but I think there's something to be said for seeing the things one treasures. What do you think? KW


Leah said...

First, let me tell you that I know NOTHING about the conservation of quilts. I do know something about beautiful vintage items and this is one of those. My personal opinion is that it should be cleaned by an Expert Quilt Conservator. If shipping it out of state is necessary, then that's what it would take. If it was mine, I would display it. The quilt has warmed many a body on a cold night during its life. Putting it on display and retiring it from the original use is appropriate. Mature quilts should be treated with respect in their old age.

Now to the letter from Bertha Dobson about their houseguest Edith. In 1936, Edith, June & Julian Dobson's sister, was 59. She grew up in Iowa as did all her siblings. Her husband had died in 1933 in Iowa. She married late, at 39 and never had children. She was the baby of 10 Dobson children and stayed close to her parents. It is said that she was a "momma's girl."

The Dobson siblings visited the Dobson twins in Idaho on occasion & Kathy has old photos to document the visits. I personally think that the Dobsons in Iowa felt that going to Idaho...out west, was a big adventure. I especially love the "simple" things in the old Dobson letters that Kathy has. Talking about quilts, cold nights and other everyday things paint a picture of the past that I especially enjoy.

Kathy said...

I agree that it shouldn't be used on a bed. I think it could be displayed, though, and maybe it's just best to forgo the cleaning. It isn't dirty in the sense that it's stained. It's dirty in the sense that it's been here and there. It's probably dusty.

I do have pictures of Edith, and reference to various family members in the correspondence. "I like her but not all her ways," said Bertha of Edith. I think Edith was rather spoiled but she had undoubtedly been a dutiful daughter.

Leah found me through the blog and I think our contact has been mutually beneficial. Stated simply, her mother's half-sister was a cousin of my dad's. So, Leah and I aren't really relatives but have relatives in common. We have identified some photographs I never hoped to know.

Chris said...

Leah has good advice. The quilt looks to be in marvelous shape, with no stains or worn spots. If you just want to get the dust out, try running it in the dryer for a little while on air/fluff.

Leah said...

Wow, Chris, I never thought of the dryer. Good idea. I was just thinking that Kathy & Mike could go outside and shake it!

Kathy said...

Running it in the dryer on air fluff is an excellent, economical idea. Thanks!

The quilt is somewhat worn, but not bad. I think I might put it on the bed in the sewing room where it would be out of direct sunlight. That bed is seldom used, and I would remove it or drape it over the foot if a guest were to sleep there.

I could see us shaking it, too, Leah, and I didn't think we were doing a good job. I still have Ina's old rug beater, too, but I thought that would be a bit harsh.