Stripping the Bed

I really like quilts. All quilts. But my particular favorites are antique quilts. And I am fortunate to have a few very special antique quilts that were made by my grandma Schumm, my great-grandma Miller, my mother, and a great-grandaunt.

Quilt made before 1882 by Christena (Rueck) Miller & Rosina (Schinnerer) Schumm.

Quilt made before 1882 by Christena (Rueck) Miller & Rosina (Schinnerer) Schumm.

A couple knowledgeable quilt people have told me one of the best ways to store quilts is to put them on a bed, preferably a spare bed that isn’t used too often. That way they don’t have to be folded or wrapped up in some special material. This method also has the advantage that the quilts are fairly easy to see. You just start pulling back the layers of quilts and you can see them one by one. Which also makes it easy to show your quilt collection to another quilt enthusiast.

Our spare bedroom is furnished with my grandpa Schumm’s old iron bed, a bed perfect for layering my quilts. In fact, I have nine quilts layered on that little bed, and they make the mattress appear quite thick. It seems to be the perfect place to store these family heirlooms.

That is, until we get company.

This weekend is our annual Miller reunion and my cousin will be staying with us over the weekend. I don’t think she would care to sleep under nine quilts, so yesterday I stripped the bed and moved all the quilts into my office.

Double wedding ring quilt made by Florence (Schumm) Miller.

Stripping the bed yesterday was not a bad job at all and I rather enjoyed it. It gave me a chance to look at and touch those beautiful quilts again. I enjoy studying all the different fabrics used to piece them together and looking at my grandma Schumm’s tiny stitches. I remember when my mom made the double wedding ring quilt. It was the first quilt she ever made and turned out to be quite a challenging project, but it turned out beautiful. My grandma Schumm stitched the small baby quilt for the birth of our son Jeff. What wonderful memories!

Bow-tie quilt made by Hilda (Scaer) Schumm.

Nine patch quilt made by Hilda (Scaer) Schumm.

Bow-tie quilt made by Hilda (Scaer) Schumm.

Baby quilt stitched by Hilda (Scaer) Schumm for Karen’s son Jeff.

The oldest family quilts I have were stitched by my great-grandmother Christena (Rueck) Miller and my great-grandaunt Rosina (Schinnerer) Schumm, before Christena married Jacob Miller in 1882. Christena was staying with the Schumm family at the time, decades before my parents married and the two families came together. Christena loved to quilt, a skill she learned from Rosina Schumm.

I love all of these old quilts. It probably comes as no surprise, but I have collected some other old quilts, too, not family heirlooms, but still beautiful works of art. I think about how these quilts were lovingly made. All the time it took to chose and cut the fabric, piece it together, and quilt it. It seems most women back then enjoyed quilting and sometimes several women worked together to make a quilt. They undoubtedly had some interesting and lively conversations during their quilting sessions. I think about how pretty these colorful quilts would have looked on a bed or hanging on a clothesline to air out in the spring. I think about who may have used these quilts to keep warm in the winter. Some of these quilts were never used but I can tell some of them were used a lot and are worn, tattered, and stained.

I actually don’t mind a worn, stained quilt. I like to think how it was lovingly used by some family many years ago.


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  1. Since you know the provenance of these lovely old quilts be sure you put a label on the back of each one with the name of the maker, location, and their birth and death dates. I have so many wonderful old quilts that I have collected and none give reference to the person who painstakingly made the piece. I too like to think about the person who not only made it, but also whether it was made for someone special in their lives.

    1. Great idea, Doris. I have done that for the two oldest quilts, but not the others. I need to do that for the rest of them so the information is not forgotten and lost. Thanks for the great suggestion!

  2. Beautiful quilts, beautifully preserved. Your family is SO lucky to have these handmade heirlooms to share with future generations. And if you know the story behind the making of or fabrics in, so much the better!

    1. Thank you! We are fortunate they were saved, along with their stories.

    • Phyllis Goodwin Brockmyer on July 22, 2018 at 7:46 pm
    • Reply

    Beautiful article on family quilts. Our mother was also a quilter and now her great-grandchildren are enjoying the quilts.

    1. Isn’t it wonderful to have those old family quilts to cherish! Thanks for writing!

    • Janet James on August 8, 2018 at 9:04 pm
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    Karen, I just read your article about your quilts and enjoyed it,especially the mention that your mother made the double wedding ring for her first project. I have taught quilting a little over the years and I always announced, when showing my quilts that you should never do that one for your first quilt. I started girls on 9-patch, sometimes Ohio Star, as it’s doable. Your family was very talented, I know. My favorite ones are from the Depression era, with the vintage sweet little prints. Keep up the good work.

    1. I thought as much, making a double wedding ring as a first quilt. It was a challenge for her but it ended up as a very nice quilt. Maybe, after that first project, that is why she never did many more quilts. I can see that the ones you mentioned would be better projects to learn to quilt. Yes, old quilts are so interesting and beautiful. I love the designs and materials. Right now I enjoy the old Amish quilts, especially the dark ones. Thanks for writing!

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