I’ve mentioned my friend, Louise, on several occasions, and the wonderful creative projects she does – remember the Christmas cards? Not only is Louise a wonderfully talented lady, she has a rich family history that she loves to share. She is a very entertaining storyteller, and often has me laughing hysterically at the antics in her family.
Louise is also fearless when it comes to quilting and loves tackling unfinished projects that others have left behind. She is passionate about preserving her family’s history and diligently documents the stories that go along with these projects. Louise called me a while back to ask for my help with a project that her 96-year-old aunt had passed along to her. This is the story of what we began calling the “Mutilated Scottie Dog Quilt.”
Mystery of the Mutilated Scottie Dog Quilt
The Scottie Dog quilt pattern used for the blocks of this strange quilt was ordered from the Sears Roebuck mail order catalog in 1933 by 14 year old Evelyn Lilly. She planned to make a Scottie Dog quilt for her 4-H Club sewing project. Evelyn’s mother helped her complete her quilt and she exhibited it at the West Virginia State Fair. She sold this quilt at the conclusion of the exhibit.
Returning from the fair, Evelyn decided she would like to have a Scottie Dog quilt of her own. She collected fabric and hand-pieced her blocks during high school and college. While teaching at Fayetteville High School, in Fayetteville, WV, she met my uncle, Oscar Blake. She told me she thought this might be a lasting relationship when he asked her to meet his mother, Helen Smith Blake, my grandmother. By then, 1943, Evelyn had finished hand-piecing her Scottie Dog blocks using pre-World War II cotton fabrics. She did not own a sewing machine of her own. Oscar had told her that his mother sewed a lot and owned a sewing machine. She thought she would take her Scottie blocks to show “Grandma” and impress her prospective future mother-in-law. Grandma said she loved the quilt blocks and since she owned a sewing machine, she would be happy to sew the blocks together for her. Evelyn had no intentions of sewing the blocks together on a sewing machine — after all, she had spent years hand-piecing them. Not wanting to offend Oscar’s mother, she reluctantly left her blocks with her.
Time passed and the next time she went to Grandma’s house she and Oscar announced their engagement. Grandma told Evelyn she had completed sewing the blocks together and proceeded to bring out the quilt top. To Evelyn’s horror, for a reason no one knows to this day, she had mutilated several of the dogs, cutting them in halves and fourths (not the side blocks and the corner blocks.) WHY???? It wasn’t as if there weren’t enough blocks or fabric to set the blocks together. Recently engaged to her son, she did not want to appear distraught, angry or ask why, fearing she would distress Oscar and most of all — his mother. She politely thanked her, gathered up her quilt top, went home and sadly put it away. Each time she thought she would finish the quilt she became angry and disgusted all over again and put it out of her sight one more time.
Oscar and Evelyn were married in 1945. She became my beloved aunt. I was visiting her in 2007, and by now Grandma and Uncle Oscar had died. She brought out the Scottie Dog quilt top, handed it to me and said, “Here, you finish it, she was YOUR grandmother!”
I brought the top home. I thought about how to finish this quilt with all the dogs with their missing parts for over a year. I finally decided to give them back their missing parts in the quilting. I bought 1930s reproduction fabric and added a border to give me room to quilt a complete dog.
Grandma did not sew these blocks together exactly. It is a shame because Aunt Evelyn’s hand piecing stitches are so precise. I decided machine quilting would destroy the integrity of the age of these strange blocks — it had to be hand quilted. My quilting is not the best but I am preserving this quilt mystery as best I know how by telling the story of this strange quilt for our family’s history. Grandma, why did you? Grandma, how could you? will forever remain a mystery. (as written by Louise Hampton)
I hope you’ve enjoyed Louise’s story and the pictures of this strange quilt. As odd as it is, I never tire of looking at the array of 30’s prints that Aunt Evelyn used in her quilt, and wondering to myself just what the heck was Grandma thinking???