Obituaries, quilt labels
and the wonders of the internet.
I read obituaries. It doesn’t matter if I knew the people or not—death notices are endlessly fascinating. I read them in the local paper, I read them in my hometown paper, and I read them in other places when I’m traveling. I’ve learned to find obituaries and burial sites online, which has greatly expanded my reading material, let me tell you. So that is one part of today’s story.
I scout eBay often for interesting antique quilts. There are loads of unique designs, color combinations and all-around inspiration. Our foremothers were brave and bold and from what I can tell, gave not a damn about the quilt police.
Once in a while a more contemporary quilt appears, like this morning. By contemporary, I mean not antique. I clicked and instantly fell down a rabbit hole. I’ve been thinking about this quilt and its maker ever since.
If you see enough thumbnails of vintage and antique quilts, they start to look alike. So when something looks different, it grabs your attention. This quilt looked different than most of the eBay thumbnails but also oddly familiar, which is why I went in for a closer look.
I began quilting—and stashing fabric—in 1984. This quilt was finished in 1991, and a closer inspection revealed at least three fabrics I remember having.
I think it looked familiar because these were the fabrics in style when I started quilting. I had that red sashing fabric for decades. And I see a little houndstooth navy blue check on tan and a large floral that lived on my shelves, too. Seeing them again was like seeing old friends.
But this is what sent me down the rabbit hole: a label! Betty Jo Haines dutifully recorded important info about her work: 58″ x 85″, 1991, Stacked Bricks, Made by Betty Jo Shroder Haines, Quilted by Bonnie Hale.
This is where the story parts merge.
You know exactly what I did, don’t you? I googled Betty Jo Shroder Haines and like magic, up pops an obituary. I was sorry but I was not surprised.
Turns out that Betty Jo was about the age of my own parents, slightly younger, and a regular mover and shaker in the quilting world of Oklahoma. I imagine that her loved ones got all the quilts they wanted and that the excess quilts are being sold, or some such scenario.
Being in charge of any quilt history project is no small feat. And making all of the Kansas City Star quilt blocks? That’s unbelievable. Wouldn’t it be fun to borrow those blocks for a guild program?!
Of course I had to check out the website of Central Oklahoma Quilter’s Guild. Betty Jo’s legacy lives on in a sizable group that’s active, friendly and generous. I like their logo, too.
So what is my point?
- Label your quilts. In a digital age, that information is like bread crumbs that can lead someone back to you and your life when they search. At the very least, your great-great-niece will know your name.
- Determine where your quilts will go when you die. I’m in the process now. I’m giving away a huge stack of quilts to family members later this summer when we gather for a big party. I’m going to sell some others at bargain prices soon. The rest of the quilts will be included in a plan that I’m writing as part of the “laundry list” portion of my will.
- If quilting played a significant role in your life, think about whether it should be included in your obituary. Write out the details so that your loved ones don’t have to come up with this information during a time of loss.
- While you’re at it, get this book: I’m Dead, Now What? Little by little you can think through what could/should/would happen at the time of your death, not just related to quilts but to all the details. Your loved ones will thank you and you can rest easy knowing you’ve expressed your wishes clearly.
It’s easier to do this stuff little by little when you’re strong and healthy. Nobody wants to do this stuff after a difficult diagnosis. Do it now.
Don’t take this as a downer post.
We’re all going to die, just as Betty Jo did. But her quilts remain, and the work she did for and with quilts and quilters in Oklahoma. Your work and mine will remain, too.
So I’m going to keep on making quilts that bring me joy, and maybe some day they will bring joy to others, too. Somebody might even google me.
Tags: antique quilts, eBay, oklahoma, quilt guild, scrap quilts
Bravo to you, Diane, for encouraging people to make preparation for when they will be gone, and not leaving it for someone else to do! With every parent whom we have buried and then dealt with their estate, my resolve was stronger to make sure my own affairs are taken care of ahead of time (as much as possible). And what a fascinating story you discovered about this talented Oklahoma quilter!
Very interesting article. I sign my quilts with my married name. I always wonder if I should include my maiden name?
I do include my maiden name! I think it might help someone doing research down the road.
Thanks for the interesting and thought provoking article. Now, I realize the importance of finding homes for our quilts when we are gone.
My parents lived in Oklahoma, so your information was heart warming; bringing back memories. My mother and I attended one of the Central Oklahoma quilt shows, which was a thrill for us. Oklahoma is a great state for quilters. Quilt shops abound in Oklahoma.
That’s fascinating! It really is a small world, isn’t it?!
Don’t forget to also think about and talk to your family about end of life issues. It can seem like a real downer but it’s better to do this when you are clear headed and healthy. Think about signing either a living will or a polst form (Physician’s Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment). Deciding what to do with your quilts is important but even more important is letting people know your wishes so that they can make decisions if necessary and don’t have to guess as to what you would like if you can’t make decisions for yourself.
A great story Diane! Makers are not always remembered with or without a label. My mother inlaw was an expert quilter and signed her work in the quilting (but you have to look for it). When she passed in Feb 2020 I thought a big display of her quilts would happen…her son (my ex husband) said – “No, quilts were not what she was about.” Getting your end times message out would have possibly helped.
Diane, you have piqued my interest now in the quilts 1068 quilt patterns that were in the Kansas City Star! I’m originally from New Orleans. I remember my grandmother getting patterns from our local New Orleans newspaper, The Times-Picayune (at least I think it was that paper:). Now I wish I had her ‘stash’ of patterns! My research is on! Thank you for also sharing the importance of labels. I will now be more of a ‘labeler’.
Well said. Some of my first quilts didn’t get labels. Then I started using my married name. Now I use both my maiden and married. I have quilts that my great-grandmother, grandmother and mother made. My mother did a great job of labeling them and writing down some of the history. It means a lot to me and hopefully will mean a lot to my daughter and granddaughters. In my family I know because of labels that there is a strong connection to quilting.
I am in Lafayette, IN. You did a zoom mtg. for my quilt guild. I have been receiving your emails since that time. Something O must tell you first is that the way you write your name is exactly how I write mine. Now in this post you talk about reading obits. I do the same. I have always liked when there are personal items in an obit that tell something about the deceased as if written by a family member or the person themselves before dying. Maybe you agree, we must be kindred Diane’s? Thanks for your interesting post. I liked it.
Hi Diane! Yes, we must be kindred spirits! My kids think I am weird about reading the obits but I always find them interesting. I enjoyed presenting for the Lafayette guild and am happy to know you’re getting my emails. I try to make them short and useful. Maybe we will meet in person some day. I hope so!
Hi Diane. I know I’m late to the this post but I gotta state the obvious – that COGQ logo looks like a Windy Wonder in the making. I just signed up for your emails after your excellent lecture at ACQ. I had so many ideas pop into my head but came away with 2 truths – nothing is really original, we are all inspired by something first and when you start simple there are infinite ways to make it new. Thanks so much for the inspiration. See you at the workshop 8/21.
Hi Lynn! Thank you for your kind words. I’m so happy to hear you found inspiration in the trunk show! That makes my day. I’ll look forward to seeing you in class!