The summer the church Grannie and Grandpa attended came up with the idea of the friendship quilt was an enlightening one for me. It probably wasn't a novel idea but it was a first for our neighborhood. Usually, it was just the family doing the quilting but this was a special project. Not only was it to be a family keepsake but it was to be hung in the fellowship hall at the church during homecoming week. Grandpa was a deacon in the church and my Aunt Ruby sang in a gospel quartet. It was a well known fact that Grannie sat the best table for miles around, her fried chicken turnip greens with corn dodgers and dried peach and apple pies were a preachers dream come true. This may or may not have been the reason our family was choosen to be in charge of the project. I'm just saying it didn't hurt.
Anyone who could use a needle was invited to quilt a small square and sew their name, family name or initial in the block. The squares were all cut from scraps left over the families wardrobe, some cut from still good outgrown clothing. Grannie and Mother pieced the top, tacked it into the batting and lining and mounted it in the frame. Grandpa and Daddy hung it on the back porch and fixed it so it could be let up when not in use. My name was the fourth one on the quilt and I made sure everyone was aware of it. Not only was it done in cursive, which I had just learned but it was the only one to take up three squares. This was partly because of the length of my name but mostly because the squares were scraps from some of my dresses and I didn't want anyone else to use them. For years I lorded it over my sisters because their names weren't on the quilt, either because they were too young to sew or not yet born. Until this day they claim to have been severely traumatized by the incident, to the degree that Shannon feels the need to quilt everything she sees,-(she quilts beautifully by the way) Sharron cannot bear the sight of a needle and thread and Mickey refuses to use anything but blankets.
This is not to belittle the art of quilting by any means. Not only was it the only social event many women of this era had to look forward to, it was in most cases a necessity. Ask anyone who has grown up in an old country home heated only by fireplaces or a pot bellied stove.
To get back to the friendship quilt, the word soon got around and it wasn't long before a lot of many from church and the cotton mill village in general began stopping by to add their families name and show off their sewing skills. There was this one lady who really liked to brag about her sewing and quilting abilities. She was also well versed in the art? of gossip. Now I'm sure Mother, Grannie and my other female relatives weren't above indulging in a bit of gossip now and then, but it was said this lady was known to embellish her juicy tidbits, name names, and even add a few details, or, as Aunt Ella ever so delicately put it, shade the truth. Now, if anyone had seen fit to ask me (which they didn't) I would have said she was the most interesting of the lot. From my vantage point under the porch (having been banished from the quilt) it was sort of like listening to a souped up vesion of "Stella Dallas" or "Portia Faces Life" on the radio. One of the stories she told was about a certain local scarlet woman (her words not mine) I wasn't sure what scarlet meant at the time so I asked an older cousin. Armed with this information I couldn't wait to tell my teacher about this real red woman who went dancing with a nanny goat every Saturday night. Interpretation? A young woman who went dancing at a local hootin nanny. (another name for a roadhouse or honky tonk if you live in the south) I'll bet poor Miss Tally went to her grave trying to figure that one out.
The quilt? Well it survived nine kids and nearly fifty years and spent its last few threadbare years in a wooden box under the house next to the chimney as a bed for our only pet, a lovable homely mutt we called Butch. A fitting demise for a keepsake don't you think? After all Butch was just like a member of the family.