My great-grandmother, Virginia Catherine Adams, was born in 1866. Her family raised cotton. The Raggedy Quilt was made from cotton picked on their farm. They “carded” their cotton by hand, spun the thread, dyed it with blue indigo or brown walnut bark, wove the fabric, and made quilt tops. They put cotton batting between the layers like a sandwich. The back was usually a solid color.
Some quilts in those days were quite beautiful, but this one was made for warmth. Virgie, as she was called, probably made this quilt during her childhood or teenage years so it is about 150 years old. By time for her wedding, she was already an expert quilter and was praised for having the tiniest stitches at any quilting bee. She would have brought the quilt into her new home when she married Daniel Berry.
Eventually the quilt was passed down to Mama, who was her granddaughter. It looked quite worn out already when my three sisters and I were children. Mama let us do whatever we wanted with it. We played many games on what we named “the raggedy quilt.” At other times, we rested on it under the shade of a favorite apple tree and read a good book.
I was named Virginia for “Grandma Berry,” as her grandchildren and great-grandchildren called her. When my mother broke up housekeeping, I inherited the “raggedy quilt.” By now, it was in shreds. Realizing its history, I have cut squares and made small stands from a wooden embroidery hoop and put it on legs for each of Grandma Berry’s living grandchildren, my sisters, myself, and my children.
I could say this keepsake recalls ancestors who inspired a strong work ethic; a great-grandmother whose tiny stitches brought beauty to the mundane; or family members who lived rich lives while making do with what they had. The truth is that when I look at it, I’m more likely to remember sweltering Mississippi summer days when I lay under the apple tree and let Heidi take me away to the snow-covered Swiss Alps.