The Great Throwing-Away: Quilts

Today’s Great Throwing-Away was more of a Great Packing-Away, but I’m stopping for a brief post. Anything to take me away from the task at hand.

Like my mother’s cookbook and her high school diploma, three quilts will stay with me.

The first is a baby blanket my mother’s mother, Mary Veazey Barrow, made for me. It’s blue, the safe color, since at the time no self-respecting boy would have been seen curled up under a pink blanket. Today there are no boy or girl colors, but I suspect blue is still the safe one.

The second is a quilt my great-grandmother, Nettie Eastwood Woodward (“Granny”) made for my dad. I don’t know exactly how old it is, but Granny died in 1940, so I assume it was made in the ’20s or ’30s–close to a hundred years old, anyway. I spent hours under that quilt during my sinus infection years and occupied myself by contemplating the one-inch squares of reds and blues and yellows and the tiny stitches binding them together. Today I look at it and think of the work that went into just piecing the top.


My grandfather Waller provided fabric for the third quilt. He chain-smoked Bull Durham roll-your-own cigarettes. After my grandmother died, when he was thirty-five, he lived on his farm but ate many of his meals at his mother’s house in town, and, consequently, did a lot of smoking there, too.

When he emptied a tobacco sack, he set it on the radio table in the living room. His older sister, Ethel, who lived there, got tired of picking up the sacks and decided to see how long he would let them stack up before he moved them. I gather he let them stack up as long as she waited to see how long he would let them stack up . . . etc.

Finally, she collected them, cut them open, washed them, and pieced two quilt backs, one for each of my grandfather’s youngest sons. But she never got around to making the quilts. When I was in my twenties, my uncle Donald’s wife and mother-in-law matched one of the backs with a sheet and made a quilt for me.


8 thoughts on “The Great Throwing-Away: Quilts

  1. Great post. Grandma was a quilter, as was my aunt, so special presents were always of the quilted variety. I remember Granddaddy bringing home ground corn in calico sacks, in a variety of colors, so that Grandma could add other colors to her ‘crazy quilts’ – that’s what she called the ones with no real pattern, just a patchwork of complementary colors.


    1. I remember those feed sacks. I had some play clothes made from them, and some doll clothes as well. A friend who’s a bit older than I and who lived on a farm said her mother always went with her father to buy feed so she could pick out the colors she wanted to make the children’s clothes out of. Thanks for commenting.

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    1. Bettie Waller’s husband, Maurice, was my grandfather’s older brother. Aunt Bettie and Uncle Maurice were my neighbors and surrogate grandparents. They ran the Waller store for years. Did you live in Fentress?


      1. Grandson of Will and Janie Ward. Just finished
        a genealogy writing project including them. Great memories of Fentress and its people.


        1. I’m delighted to hear from you. Are you Joe Ward’s son? My grandfather and his siblings grew up with your grandfather in the Cottonwood community across the river. For twenty years, until he closed his ice cream parlor, I spent a small fortune on nickel ice cream cones. We all dearly loved him. I’ve said, in all sincerity, that your family is the closest thing to royalty Fentress ever had.

          I wrote a poem of sorts about him. If you care to read it, you can find it here:

          I don’t know if you remember them, but Frank Waller was my grandfather. Bill was my father. One of my father’s cousins said that Miss Janie, as her Sunday school teacher, taught her a lot about growing up and being a wife. Fentress was a very special place.

          Thanks so much for reading and commenting.


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