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It IS your Grandmother’s Quilt!

It IS your Grandmother’s Quilt!

Written by: 
Linzee McCray

Search the internet for “It’s not your grandmother’s…” and you’ll find everything from “It’s not your grandmother’s wine” to It’s not your grandmother’s library” to “It’s not your grandmother’s commune.” Mostly I laugh at these attempts to sound young and hip, but there is one that riles me up: “It’s not your grandmother’s quilting.” I always want to shout back “Oh, YES IT IS!”

Once I've calmed down I acknowledge that in general, recognition of and appreciation for the quilters who have come before has grown. Most contemporary quilters recognize and honor quilts of the past. (Check out these beauties, for example, which inspire contemporary improvisational quilters, or these bold, graphic Amish quilts that could be straight out of the modern quilt movement.

The point is that grandmothers did (and do) know a thing or two about quilting. I’m a grandmother myself and thought it would be fun to ask some Moda folks about the ways that grandparenting plays into their quilting lives.

First up is Moda designer Deb Strain:

Scott and I are the proud grandparents of four wonderful grandchildren. Here are the twins, Finn and Graham, age 12. And two girls: 22-month old Effie and one month old Willow. Being grandparents truly is our most precious blessing!

Deb Strain's twin grandsons

And two girls: 22-month old Effie and one month old Willow. Being grandparents truly is our most precious blessing!

Deb Strain's daughter and two granddaughters

As many of you know, I am a VERY NOVICE QUILTER, spending most of my time painting. At Christmas, I tried my first quilt (on a very small scale) and made Effie a quilt for her baby dolls, using Llama Love. I even quilted it myself!! (Not sure if that counts as a first quilt, but it was so much fun!) The twins then exclaimed that they wanted me to make them a quilt...and SEW it begins!

Deb Strain's doll quilt

Deb not only made Effie a quilt, she named her newest line Effie’s Woods, in honor of her first granddaughter. The line grew from watercolors of bunnies that Deb painted for Effie’s nursery. You can see Effie’s Woods, which will be in stores in October, here.

Next up is Debbie Outlaw, Moda’s longtime Book and Pattern buyer, who recently retired. She’s found a lot of satisfaction in making quilts for family members.

I’ve made quilts for my sons and daughters-in-law ever since they married. Then, when the grandchildren came along, I made lots of quilts for them. Now that I’m retired I’m sure I’ll be trying my hand at t-shirt quilts using all their sports t-shirts.  

Here's a quilt I just made for my granddaughter Peyton Outlaw, who graduated and is headed to UNT.  

Debbie Outlaws granddaughter Peyton Outlaw and quilt

Here's a quilt I made for each of my three grandsons.

Quilt Debbie Outlaw made for her grandsons

Here's grandson Hunter Outlaw with his.

Debbie Outlaw's son Jackson with quilt

And here's grandson Jackson Outlaw with his.

Debbie Outlaw's grandson Jackson with quilt

Lissa Alexander, Moda’s Director of Marketing, uses fabric and quilts to inspire her grandkids' creativity.

I live close to four of my five grandkids and get to see them several times a week. They come to my house often to play or for sleepovers. I love for them to be able to create, whether it is with yarn, rocks, glue, fabric, Popsicle sticks or even toilet paper rolls.

Lissa Alexander's grandson with Jelly rolls

I never mind the mess, but the occasional MAZE made with yarn through a few rooms makes it hard to move around without touching the line, and I am not as agile as I used to be to lay on the floor and crawl under, but I try.

I have a few scrap bins that are "theirs": they know they can play with anything in that bin but not to venture into any of the other fabric stashes without my approval. I have added some more kid-friendly scissors and have put away any good scissors, rotary cutters, or anything sharp that they may find while snooping.

Lissa Alexander's grandson sorting quilt blocks

Since they are around often I still sew and know that they will want to get involved, so I am never in a rush but instead let them play with sorting mini-charms by color or picking their favorites, laying out quilt blocks, pinning fabrics to the design wall, etc.

Lissa Alexander's granddaughter pinning blocks to design wall

Lissa Alexander's granddaughter sewing in sequins
My six-year-old grandson helps take pictures and sometimes wants to be in the picture. He has even filmed me talking about how to make a quilt to put on his YouTube channel (that he doesn't have YET).

Lissa Alexander's grandson Nolan and photography

I love spending time with them and they are learning so much through play.

Finally, there’s me, Linzee McCray.

I love making baby quilts. Because they’re typically small and faster to make, they provide the perfect opportunity to test out blocks that I’m considering for a larger quilt. I also love taking designs for my bigger quilts and reducing the number of blocks to make a baby-sized version. I have two granddaughters and made each of them a quilt when they were born. It’s been such a pleasure to see them continue to use the quilts as they grow.

Here’s a picture of my granddaughter Iris when she was a month old on a mini-version of Backyard Breeze.

Linzee McCray granddaughter Iris on Backyard Breeze

She's eight months old now and the quilt serves as a soft surface for her to crawl and play on. 

lkm_Linzee McCray grandmother post Iris 8 mo old

And here’s my newborn granddaughter Freya on the Cake Mix quilt I it made for her in 2018 (you can read about that here).

lkm_Linzee McCray grandmother baby Freya on quilt

She's now three years old and the first afternoon her dad put together her big girl bed, she grabbed that quilt and pretended to sleep. 

Linzee McCray grandmother post Freya in bed

 Just like Deb Strain's granddaughter Effie, my granddaughter served as inspiration for my current fabric line, Flowers for Freya. I taught her when she was very little that flowers smell good and she could sniff them. During the pandemic, we’d sniff flowers “together” via Zoom and I couldn’t wait to do it with her in person.

Grandchildren also provide the perfect excuse to make doll quilts (like Deb did, above), so when the pandemic started I decided to use my orange scraps for a doll quilt of half-triangle squares that finished at one inch each. (I used Vanessa Christensen’s Ombré Confetti Metallic for the background.) A tip: quilts with tiny pieces and so many seams are bulky and hard to wrap around dolls—opt for one with bigger pieces!

Linzee McCray doll quilt 

Do you have wee ones you enjoy sewing for? Be they your children or grandchildren, the children of friends, or quilts you sew to donate to children, sewing for the younger set can bring satisfaction and inspire creativity.