Family displays quilt made by grandmother
In 1890, a 17-year-old girl, newly graduated from the Fergus Falls Normal School, was teaching at a country school - her first job.
With some time on her hands after the students left for home, and perhaps lonely from being away from home the first time, she made herself busy with a sewing project.
She and friends mailed snippets of fancy material to each other and stitched crazy quilts - carefully pieced fabrics joined with elaborate embroidery stitches. Rather than following a repeated pattern like most block quilts, no two crazy quilts are alike.
The teenaged teacher was Della Barbour, the grandmother of Tim Jones of Bemidji, who is the owner, along with his wife, Annette, of the crazy quilt his Nana pieced in about 1890.
"In those days, they didn't waste a scrap," said Annette.
The quilt features velvets and satins embellished with chains, French knots, lazy daisies and feather stitching.
"This is an actual little pansy," Annette said pointing out a pressed flower in one corner of the quilt. "She put some netting on it."
Della also embroidered her initials onto a square and decorated the design with leaves and flowers.
Della was born in 1873 in LeRoy, Minn., on the Iowa border.
"One of the things I remember about her, when she was a little girl, she watched all the wagon trains going west," Tim said.
"She was a really good storyteller," said Annette.
In contrast, he said he remembers in 1969 when Della was 96, she watched in fascination every minute of the American moon landing.
When Della was 6, Tim said her family moved to Otter Tail Lake west of Wadena, Minn.
Della never finished the quilt. After about one year of teaching, she married Henry Jones and moved to Parkers Prairie, Minn. At that time, married women generally weren't allowed to teach.
"She got married and had six children and didn't have time to finish this quilt," Annette said.
Tim said his grandmother later moved to Cass Lake to be near children and grandchildren. She lived to be 102.
"She was a neat old lady," Tim said.
He said he came upon the quilt wrapped in plastic in a drawer when he was tidying up his Aunt Helen Christensen's Cass Lake home after she died. Helen had inherited the quilt from her mother, but had no children to pass it on to.
"I wouldn't have known what it was," Tim said.
Annette said she also failed to recognize what a treasure the inheritance was until a quilter friend in Florida clued her in.
Annette sewed a backing onto the quilt to preserve it and had it framed. It is on display in their study with only two tiny sections showing wear.
Now a quilter herself, Annette attends the Quilt Club the first Thursday of each month at Emily's Country Cottage. She said the proprietor, Emily Hardwig, plans the meetings around a theme.
"There's a little segment of the Quilt Club that's show-and-tell," Annette said.
For the February meeting, she decided to take Della's creation and story to the Quilt Club. Coincidentally, the theme of the meeting was crazy quilts.