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Handmade quilt stores W.Va. family's memories

April 20, 2014
Associated Press

CORE, W.Va. (AP) — Marie Jones was a minute or so into the history of the handmade quilt she was showing a visitor when her daughter, Lois Dittman, made a discovery.

"Right there," Lois said, jamming her finger into a purple square of fabric with a flower design in the middle. "That's from the curtains in my room. I knew it looked familiar."

If Lois had looked keenly enough through the mountain of quilts on the living room couch, she probably would have recognized other needle-and-thread artifacts, as well.

Fabric from an old Easter dress, maybe. Or another pattern Marie made for a cloth purse a little girl had to have for dress-up day at school.

Quilts are why that visitor came calling on that rain-soaked Friday afternoon.

Marie, 92, is soft-spoken and smiles easily, but don't let her fool you. She was a sewing machine commando, wielding that Singer like a submachine gun as she made dresses and outfits for her and her six kids.

"Back then, you did what you had to do to get by," Marie said. "You had to be resourceful."

If curtains or clothes were needed, she made them. She hardly ever used sewing patterns, she said.

"I just pictured in my head how I thought it would look," she said, "and I started sewing."

She worked too hard at the time to realize it, but what she really did was stitch together a fabric of memories.

Her house on Pedlar Run Road is the one she was born in, grew up in and raised a family in.

"I go back seven generations," she said. "In this living room."

She went back 75 years with her late husband, Robert, who spied her at grade school one day. The then 13-year-old Robert stitched up his courage and said hello to Marie, who was a year younger.

"He said he thought I might end up being his girlfriend," she remembered, as she smiled and looked down at the quilt in her lap.

What did she think?

"I didn't know what to think. I don't even know if was paying attention to boys then. He must have known something. He was the only boyfriend I ever had."

Not too long before Robert died on May 19, 2012, they celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.

Robert, who drove a school bus and worked the 60 or so acres of farm that's home to the house Marie was born in, battled a heart condition off and on, but he always recovered before.

"When he went to the hospital that last time, I never dreamed he wouldn't be coming home," Marie said. "I still haven't been to his grave. I don't know if I can go."

A daughter put her hand on her mom's and said that didn't matter.

"He's not there, Mom," Lois said. "He's here."

He was, in the form of the sepia-toned pictures and faded Olan Mills portraits of her and Marie sharing their lives, and the lives of all those kids, grandkids and great-grandkids.

Grandkids and great grandkids got her into the quilting business. It was 1991, and Marie was hobbled with a broken foot. There were no more outfits or curtains to sew, so she found a new canvas for her needle-and-thread artistry. Quilting.

That first Christmas, every Jones kid got one.

When the next Christmas came, quilts for the grandkids were under the tree.

Twenty-three great-grandchildren also own a Marie Jones quilted creation that couldn't be more original.

Macular degeneration eventually stopped Jones' quilt-making. The vision-robbing disease narrowed her eyesight to the point where she could no longer do intricate needlework.

Lois said she doesn't need a quilt to wrap herself in good memories of her growing-up years on Pedlar Run Road.

"As kids, we worked hard because we had to," Lois said. That's because their home address was a working farm. There were chickens, cows and pigs to tend to. Somebody had to bale hay and can vegetables.

"I think that's why we all got along growing up," Lois said. As she said, when you were finally done with your chores and had time to play and romp in the hills past the house, why waste your time arguing with a sibling?

"Now that I think about it," she said, "I'm not sure I can remember my parents even arguing.

"If we did, by the end of the day we forgot about what it was about," Marie said.

Marie doesn't mind sewing her memories to the visions stitched by her creativity. There were the ones she gave to family as gifts and the ones she bestowed upon friends. She's got the histories of a good 70 quilts stitched in her memory.

Is Lois a quilter?

"Are you kidding me?" said a laughing Lois, who has grandchildren of her own. "I don't have the patience."

There is an up-and-coming quilter in the family, though, Lois said: Her niece, and Marie's great-granddaughter, Ashley Marie.

Under the tree this past Christmas was a quilt with Marie's name on it. Ashley, who is 9, made it (with some help) and added an embroidered inscription: "To Grandma Marie from Ashley Marie."

"There's my quilter," Marie said, smiling at a new generational thread.

___

Information from: The Dominion Post, http://www.dominionpost.com

 
 

 

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