Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Family Legacy I

Mary Bradbury*, my great-grandmother, was born in the spring of 1865 in West Paris, Maine. She married Isaac York**, a widower twenty years her senior, already a father, and a shoemaker by trade. They moved south to a home near the coast in Biddeford; an industrial town on the Saco River. There, in 1890 she would give birth to my grandmother. In late 1916 she would die before the birth of my mother.

So many of our female ancestors are lost to us, their passage through time marked only by names and dates, perhaps an aged photo or two and a mossy gravestone. But if we are very lucky, there will be something else, a fingerprint of sorts, some thing that they “inhabit”.

I have been this lucky. In the late 1990s my mother gave me care of the family quilts, including one made by my great-grandmother. For decades my mother kept it folded in a plastic bag in one of her bedroom bureaus (this would probably be after my grandmother moved in with us in 1958). The quilt is only a top, unfinished, with no backing or binding. It is a Victorian Crazy Quilt, made circa 1900. Pieces of special occasion fabrics, such as satins, velvets, silk and brocades, have been hand-sewed in irregular shapes onto muslin blocks, which were joined and then embellished with embroidery, paint, ribbon and other decorative effects. This was quite the rage in the late 19th century and there are whole books dedicated to all aspects of Victorian crazy quilting if one is interested.

Mary’s quilt is a lovely piece of stitchery. One can imagine the Victorian fashions made from some of these wonderful fabrics (look at those plaids!)
Below are some photos taken of various parts of the quilt:

Photo 1: The clover is painted on.
Photo 2: The daisy petals are made with small pieces of ribbon sewn on.
Photo 3: One of the many goldenrods pieces done using various embroidery techniques.
Photo 4: Her initials: M.A.Y. = Mary Abbie York.
Photo 5: Look at those plaids and stripes!
Photo 6: The brown fabric, a silk, has little pigs on it!
Photo 7: More embroidery and fabrics

(I have more photos but this is a good sampling from the quilt)

Here's a recipe from my great-grandmother:

Pepper Relish

12 hot green peppers
12 sweet red peppers
4 level tablespoons salt
12 onions
2 cups sugar

Chop peppers and onions. Cober with boiling water and let stand 5 minutes. Drain and add sugar and salt and 1 quart of vinegar. Boil 20 minutes.

(apparently, one knew what to do after that)

*Mary is a direct descendant; nine generations past, of Mary Bradbury (born circa 1620 - 1700) of Salisbury, Massachusetts, the elderly wife of a local magistrate, and one of the many convicted of witchcraft in 1692 Salem. And if Mary Bradbury York is a direct descendant, then, of course, so am I.

**There is no indication that Isaac was also from West Paris (then known only as Paris). His name is not included in The History of Paris, Maine by William Lapham (c. 1884. which covered to 1880). Mary's family and Mary are listed.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Violet Quilt (2005)

I never buy quilt kits, nor do I tend to buy the prescribed fabrics for any particular pattern. Perhaps, there is a bit of the rebel still left in me, or perhaps I'm just ornery and just don't like to be told what to do! However, there is there ONE notable exception to this pattern of behavior.

After my mother went to live with my brother and his family, I thought I would like to make a quilt for the Ladies Auxiliary of Fire Department in my hometown, to raffle. My mother, a longtime member, and her friends, besides making their own quilts, often put together the collaborative quilt that the group made each year for raffle at their summer fair. With this in mind, in my mother's honor, I made this quilt for the group.

I found a pattern I liked, which came in a lovely promotional brochure for a specific fabric line called "Vintage Violets." I suppose I didn't want to play around with fabric choices this time, so I bought the specified fabrics...all but two of them. Those I substituted with other fabrics (couldn't help myself!) Of course, I adore purples and this was a deep purple leaning towards a blue-violet.

According to the few notes I kept, I started the quilt in January of 2005 and finished it in March. The quilt was queen-sized and contained 13 different fabrics. I had a professional quilter from Pepperell, Massachusetts quilt it; she did a beautiful job! (I forget her name at the moment, but I hope to come back an add it here when I find it). Once I was finished, I found the quilt difficult to give up!

My mom's Auxiliary pals were ecstatic and I was pleased to give to them. The Auxiliary raises money to buy much-needed equipment for the local fire company, and for local college scholarships.

I never did hear how much they raised by raffling the quilt, but I know a woman from Connecticut won it. If the tag is ever separated from the quilt, it will be identified as mine by the fabric substitutions I made.

Here are several more close-ups of the quilt: