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Handing Down Family Heritage -- One Stitch at a Time

Grandma and Grandpa are the closest links to the past -- and often the best source of information about your family's story.


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Resource: ARA Content
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Where do I belong? How do I fit in? These are questions kids start asking as soon as they're old enough for school. Grandma and Grandpa are the closest links to the past -- and often the best source of information about your family's story.

Not only can connections be made with the past through stories and the sharing of photographs, but with the passing down of bits and pieces of family history. Tell your family story one stitch at a time with a crazy quilt. Snuggle up with your grandchild under a quilt that tells the story that is uniquely his or hers.

Crazy quilts have a great deal of history in this country. In Colonial times, when old blankets and coverlets began to wear out, they were patched up -- out of necessity -- with whatever material happened to be around at the time: used clothing scraps, uniforms, and worn blankets. The practice led to the creation of quilts with a lot of history. Years later during the Victorian era, a time of prosperity, crazy quilts were made not out of necessity, but as an art form that women took great pride in. They used silks, velvets and abundant embroideries to create quilts so beautiful, many ended up in museums.

In modern days, people have turned them into family keepsakes that bundle together memories. "Making a crazy quilt is a great way to pass down family history," says Jennifer Gigas, educational consultant for the sewing machine company, Bernina of America. "When you look back at a family's history, grandma and grandpa's wedding day is a good starting point, and any symbols related to the union such as a handkerchief, lace or even buttons from the wedding gown can be used to create the ultimate family keepsake -- a crazy quilt,"

In the old days, materials were sewn together by hand. Today, high-tech sewing machines -- like Bernina's artista 165E Heritage Edition-- do the work for you. This versatile and surprisingly affordable sewing and embroidery system has a convenient touchscreen, exclusive rescaling feature and the optional CPS software that lets you exchange decorative stitches or embroidery designs easily in your crazy quilt. You don't have to make a large quilt -- you can make a wall hanging, throw or pillow that is not only decorative but tells the family story. The story will be a requested favorite that will be a time of bonding during a bedtime snuggle.

"Once you have the piece of fabric from grandma's wedding dress and sew on lace, beads, charms, and mementos,, you can add embellishments, bits and pieces of family history -- grandpa's war medals, baby clothes, uniforms, prom dresses, Girl Scout patches and the like."

Gigas says many people use embroidery to personalize their quilts even further. "The embroidery feature on Bernina's artista machines make it easy to add bits of history such as names, dates, favorite sayings. Your only limit is your imagination."

In addition to embellishments and colorful embroidery, photos can be transferred to fabric and added to this historical piece, and permanent ink can be used to add personal touches -- the signatures of older family members and finger or footprints of new babies.

Or take a small piece of your crazy quilted material and make a shadow box of memories of a single event such as a wedding or special trip. The crazy quilt piece can serve as the background. Photographs and larger mementos can be secured to the fabric.

"As we get older, family history becomes more important and one way to keep memories alive is to sew from the heart," says Gigas.

Courtesy of ARA Content

Source Information: ARA Content, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2004.

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