JOPPA, Ohio — When we think of treasure, we often think of a chest filled with gold, but treasure is also defined as a collection of precious things, something we cherish for the memories they hold, something more important than monetary value.
After losing her mother to COVID-19 related issues in January, Patty Grossnickle found a treasure of her own. While going through her mother’s quilting supplies, she found blocks she and her mother had embroidered in 1968 that had never found their way into a quilt.
“I found the pieces in a bag at the bottom of a closet, along with lots of other materials for more quilts,” Patty said. “Seeing the blocks we did together brought back memories…I remembered asking Mom if I could embroider some of the pieces.”
She said her mother told her she could, but that she would have to do a good job.
“I was in middle school at the time, and I remember sitting with Mom and carefully stitching the pattern on some of the blocks. I think I did 10 or 12 out of the 50, it was definitely Mom’s project. When I pulled out the finished blocks, I couldn’t tell which I had sewn and which had been the ones Mom did, so I guess I did a good job!”
Patty didn’t want the blocks to go back in the closet, and knew it would be quite an undertaking to clean the squares and piece the quilt together.
“The squares had been in the bag for over 50 years and needed to be cleaned,” she said. “I wanted to do something with them but just couldn’t see myself tackling that project.”
This was when her sister-in-law Darlene Grossnickle stepped in to help. Darlene contacted their friend and quilter Robin Putman who agreed to piece the quilt.
“I turned the project over to Robin and told her she was the quilter and whatever she did would be fine,” Patty said.
Many of the blocks were yellowed with age or had marks left by the embroidery hoops, but after careful washing they looked like new. Now it was time for Robin to begin the assembly. Each of the 50 quilt squares had a state flower embroidered on them, and she had a decision to make — in what order to arrange the blocks. Should she place them alphabetically, or scatter them randomly? Then she had a thought, why not put them in the order each state joined the union.
So, Robin gathered the dates and laid out the blocks in the order of each state’s admittance. When she came to the Ohio block, she noticed something peculiar; OHIO was spelled OIHO, it had been embroidered on the back side of the fabric.
“All the other blocks were perfect,” Patty said. “The only mistake was with OHIO, our state. I’m guessing the image was such a good transfer that it showed through on the opposite side of the fabric and Mom just stitched it that way and didn’t realize it was backwards.” Patty said.
“At first, I wondered what we were going to do, then realized how special that made it. Robin said every quilt has a “mistake,” and for this quilt it is the OHIO square “Mom embroidered it on the back side!”
Robin decided to place it upside down “like it is hanging to dry.” With what other state’s name could you do that?
The next step was the selection of the fabric for the accents, binding and back of the quilt. Darlene suggested to Robin that she use shades of purple, Patty’s favorite color.
After the quilt was assembled, Robin took it to local quilter Amber Ridenour, owner of the Bed Head Cardinal in Chester, Ohio, who machine-quilted the layers together and bound the edges.
When Patty was presented with the finished quilt on March 1, she could only say, “What a treasure I received today.”
Patty said she could only speculate that the reason her mother hadn’t put the blocks into a finished quilt was that they were not very bright, perhaps she was disappointed with how they turned out and didn’t think it would make a pretty finished product.
“The colors Robin selected made the flowers pop,” Patty said. “It was such an unexpected surprise, the quilt is beautiful, the fabric encases the flowers, it is perfect.”
She said she is sure her mother would be quite pleased.
“Sadly, Mom did not see the finished product, but I like to think that she heard when I excitedly told her it was being done and that I was looking forward to showing it to her.”
Patty expressed a sincere thank you to the ladies that made this happen, that turned 50-year-old quilt blocks into a treasure that contains special memories of time spent with her mother.
Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.