Monday, February 13, 2017

Family Album Quilt

Grandma O loved family history, especially old family photos, at least as much as she loved quilting.  So it's no surprise that she wanted to put the two interests together.  She collected portraits of all fourteen members of this Swedish family, had them printed on fabric, and wanted to put them together with black-and-white prints to mimic an old photo album.  She told me about her plans, and seemed pretty excited about them.  But she didn't get to finish the project.  And she didn't leave a diagram behind.
Frankly, I was relieved when Grandpa O told me he'd passed this one on to a cousin.  But he brought it to me last Christmas.  Apparently the cousin's vision of the quilt was different than what he remembered of Grandma O's plan.  The cousin added blank frames between the photos to make a large quilt; he was pretty sure it was supposed to be a smaller wall-hanging.  And some of the siblings were not in correct age order.  So he asked me to fix it.
I labeled all the people, figured out where they should be, and started ripping seams.  At first I hoped to keep the black frames, but I found that they were not consistently sized, and sometimes not securely stitched.  I ended up replacing most of the frames.  I preferred the black-and-white sashing to the black-and-tan.  I sliced the black-and-white strips in half, and had just enough to surround each photo.  With the disassembly and my own mistakes, I think I used my seam ripper more than I ever have for a single project.
With fourteen pictures in a 4x4 layout, there were still a couple of spaces to fill.  But I felt like the blank frames gave an "empty chairs at the table" feel to the composition.  All twelve of these children lived to adulthood.  They are all accounted for.  So I made a title block, using the embroidery machine to stitch the family name and some Swedish-inspired floral designs.  I'm sure these designs were meant to be more colorful, but I stuck with grays and subdued colors, to match the quilt's color scheme.  I also embroidered the family members' names beneath their photos.  The girls had three given names each, like Grandpa O's musically named grandmother, Anna Wilhelmina Albertina.  The machine has a sufficiently small font, though, and every name fit.
As I recall, Grandma O wanted to try a pretty fancy method of quilting on this project.  I'm not ready for that, so I kept it simple with straight lines around the black frames.  Then I finished it up with binding and loops for hanging.  I hope Grandpa O enjoys seeing his ancestors on his wall.  And I'm glad I could help after all.


  1. Absolutely beautiful! I am amazed at your talent in quilting! Excellent job. Quilting is difficult. Your Grandma would be proud. :o)

  2. Wow, what a project! Such a cool quilt. I love it.