Friday, August 26, 2011

A Tribute in Fabric

When Jim and I were in Lincoln, Nebraska, we visited the International Quilt Museum at the University of Nebraska.   It houses the largest publicly held quilt collection in the world with over 3500 quilts from the early 1700s to present from over 25 countries.  One of the exhibitions featured Nebraska quilts and quilt makers, including engineer and farmer Ernest Height.  When Mr.Height once commented on a quilt’s “lack of exactness,” his wife told him to “keep still” unless he could do better.   He quilted for over 50 years and made over 300 quilts.  
My grandmother was a quilter, too.  Margaret Bring Tran was born in Carlisle Township, Ohio in 1889.  She belonged to a quilting club and may have been making pieces for a future club project of a “flower garden” pattern quilt when she got sick around 1935.  Grandma Tran never finished her quilt because she died in 1937 when my mom was just 17 and my Aunt Helen was 15.  But before she got sick, Grandma Tran hand cut and hand stitched 798 hexagon-shaped quilt pieces from material used to make dresses for my mom and aunt, plus clothing she made for herself.    
My mom said she’s not sure where her mom got the fabric.  There was a store in Grafton, Ohio (where my grandmother, grandfather, mom, aunt and my two uncles lived) that Grandma Tran may have walked to because they did not own a car.  Or, she may have taken the trolley the 12 miles to Elyria.
My mom is not a quilter, but she hung on to those fabric flowers for 60 years.  Encouraged by my brother Don and his wife, Trudy, who live in Lincoln, Mom took the flowers with her when she visited them.  Mom washed each of the flowers by hand, pressed them, and then gave them to Don and Trudy, who in turn asked a Mennonite quilt maker to create a quilt.  From that came a beautiful tribute to my grandmother, Margaret Tran, and her daughters Alice and Helen.
The quilt Margaret Tran never got to finish herself.  Each “flower” of the flower garden consists of one yellow hexagon surrounded by six hexagons of  a complementary solid color.  Circling the solid color are 12 more hexagons made from leftover material from dresses Grandma Tran made from about 1926 to 1933.
My mom with her “Flower Garden” patterned quilt.  The pattern is also known as a hexagon or honey comb quilt, and was very popular in the 1920s and 1930s.  
These two "flowers" are made from similar-patterned dresses worn by my mom and her sister.

These two patterns are from dresses worn by my mom’s mother, Margaret Bring Tran.   Grandma Tran had colon cancer, but it was misdiagnosed and she died in November 1937 at the beginning of my mom’s senior year of high school.



  1. What a great Blog, what a wonderful story. I've got nothing snarky to say!

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  3. Hey Mom, It's Paul. Here's my "Constructive" edit for paragraph four

    "My mom is not a quilter, but she hung on to those fabric flowers for 60 years. Encouraged by my brother Don and his wife, Trudy, who live in Lincoln, Mom took the flowers with her when she visited them. After washing and pressing each of the flowers by hand, she gave them to Don and Trudy, who in turn passed them over to a Mennonite quilt maker. From that came this beautiful tribute to my grandmother:"

    I loved the story, by the way.

  4. Paul, Sweetie: Thank you for your re-write. You are a good editor and I love you. We are having fun with Grandma. Uncle Bob and Aunt Suzie will be here tomorrow. Miss you. Mom.