Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thursday's Missionary Meeting


When we were kids our school bus picked us up and dropped us off in the driveway of a church at the end of our country road. Instead of going straight home from the bus stop on Thursday afternoons, we’d head for the back of the church and down the cement steps, into the basement where my grandmother and her sisters were gathered for the day.


Every Thursday, for years, my Grandma Bessie and her sisters met in the basement of their church to quilt. I loved popping in to see what they were working on after school, and we also loved sampling the cakes and pies leftover from their potluck lunch.

My grandmother and great-aunts were paid to put quilts together for people, and the money they collected was then donated to their “overseas missionaries.” They referred to their Thursday quilting bee as their weekly “Missionary Meeting.”


I can still picture their set up in my mind. The ladies sat around a quilt that was suspended from the ceiling with ropes at each corner. The quilt was secured with thumb tacks to long boards on all four sides, and the boards were attached at each corner with a vice. They stitched from the edges of the quilt toward the center, and as they completed a section of the quilt, the corner vices were removed and the quilt was wound inward around the boards, allowing them to reach a new area for stitching. {I found a photo online that shows a great example, and I've included it at the end of this post.}


And when they finished for the day, the ropes were wound around each corner of the quilt boards, raising it up until it hugged the ceiling, out of reach of little cake-stained hands.
 
My grandmother and great-aunts stitched and chatted and prayed and gossiped, all while hand stitching the top/batting/bottom of a quilt together by hand. Tiny stitches, beautifully practiced, all neat and even and lovely.


Today when I work on my own quilts, I think of those days and the sense of community and fellowship my grandmother and her sisters shared during their missionary meetings every Thursday. I think of the beautiful hand work they graced each quilt with, and wonder who is blessed to own one of the quilts they stitched back then. I long for my quilts to be completed with hand-stitching like theirs, but alas I will run mine through the sewing machine and make quick work of the process.


And when I’m done I will gift this quilt to my daughter. Somewhere among the seams that hold all the pieces together are memories of Grandma Bessie and her sisters, stitched there with my thoughts of them as I created this quilt.
 
Who knew, all those years ago, that the Thursday missionary
meetings would still mean so much to one little girl.

 Not my photo, and not my grandma.
Photo credit: Library of Congress Historical Archives

16 comments:

Becky said...

This was lovely to read. Quilting seems to be really popular these days, but I don't really like sewing, so although I love the thought of making one I don't think I'd actually do it! I could just imagine your grandmother and sisters at their missionary meeting :)

alexa said...

I have really enjoyed this, Deb - I am fascinated to learn about how the quilt was stitched and very admiring of this beautiful white and multi-coloured one we have been having glimpses of.

Carrie Rosalind said...

Love this! I have heard this story before but I'm glad you documented it here. And I love my quilt and can't wait to get it!! <3

debs14 said...

Your quilt will have just as much love sewn into it!
What a lovely story.

Irene said...

What a lovely story to go with your lovely quilt. I'm sure Carrie will enjoy it.

DanaK ~ WaterPenny said...

Yay, glad you wrote up and shared this blog and story! I have a quilting rack that I don't hardly use any more (I prefer hoops whenever I (rarely) hand-quilt), but just to say, my cats realllly liked sitting in those quilts suspended in the quilting rack. They'd flop up there and ruin my tension everytime I stepped away. So yet another reason to hang them from the ceiling ;)

Susi said...

Another lovely read and one lucky daughter. I've never made a quilt but you've got me interested. Like I need another project. : )

Abi said...

Thank you for the links and the beautiful story. What a fun way to quilt. When I sew I often imagine what it would be like to do so in a room with you and other blog friends happily chatting away as the needles flew...

Paula@TheSassyQuilter said...

Such great memories! I love quilting with my guild for this reason, a sense of a group effort even if we have different projects. Love your quilt, the colors really pop against that white.

Teresa said...

Beautiful quilt! Love the pretty pops of color set off by the white.
I like to make quilt tops, but I'm never excited for the actual quilting part and have always farmed that part out. I tried hand quilting once and my stitches were atrocious. The neat, little stitches that your grandma and her friends made elude me!
Your daughter will surely treasure her quilt. :)

Lisa-Jane said...

Wow, I love this Deb! I can imagine all that wise advice being passed on while they stitched too. What a lovely sense of community spirit they must have had.

Margaret said...

What a wonderful story. Your grandmother must have been very talented, and you clearly get your amazing gift from her.

Jo said...

What lovely memories to have and it's so nice that you are quilting and passing your quilts on x

Karen said...

I'd love to know just how my great-aunts and grandmother made their quilts. I'm the proud owner of several of them, but they had given up quilting by the time I got to know them. This was a great post, and I love the fresh colors of the quilt you are making!

Stephanie said...

That is so awesome! I'm not a sew-er, but I love the idea of the old-time quilting circles. The old photo is neat too. Thanks for sharing with us, Deb!

Gail said...

Thanks for that peek into a little bit of your Grandma's life and quilting.

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