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.