One summer’s day in the mid-1970s, as my mom, Lila Shields, and I were discussing our latest embroidery and sewing projects, she said there was something she wanted me to see. I wondered what interesting thing Mom had tucked away, and so my heart sank when she brought out the tattered remnants of an old quilt.
Nevertheless, Mom encouraged me to take a closer look—it appeared there were several layers of quilting beneath the surface. As we spread the quilt on the kitchen table, Mom explained that her grandmother, Cindrilliah (Cindy) Nash Schilling (born July 11, 1862), had made the quilt and that in her later years Cindy’s cash income had come from the quilts she sold. In spite of its dilapidated condition, Mom had held onto the quilt because of its sentimental value. As the two of us carefully began to cut away the outside layer of fabric, we found three additional layers inside, all of them in some stage of disrepair.
Looking at the threadbare layers, I began to appreciate what the quilt had once been; my great-grandmother died in 1947 when I was only two so I have no memories of her, but I resolved to preserve what I could of the quilt by making a simple toy for each of her grandchildren from the usable scraps. I made a mama and baby duck for my uncle, teddy bears for my mom and an aunt, and a tiny rocking horse for myself. Uncle Floyde Shilling, Aunt Florence Lamb, and Mom were pleased to receive something made by their Grandmother Cindy that they might pass down to younger generations.
Shirley Hansen lives in Stone Mountain, Georgia.
Find this and other great articles in the November/December 2003 issue of PieceWork.
Published July 27, 2017; updated January 26, 2021.