A handmade inheritance

I count myself fortunate that I was relatively old when my first grandparent died - I was in my third year at university.  It meant that I'd been able to spend a lot of time with my grandparents, something I know many of my friends didn't get to do as their grandparents died when my friends were little, or in some instances before they were even born.

As is often the case, I was closer to one set of grandparents than another - my mum's parents lived literally across the road from us and I spent a great deal of my childhood with them.  From when I was very little, Thursday was 'my' day.  I'd spend time with Nanny and Grandad: when I started going to school they'd pick me up and give me dinner before taking me home.  As I got older, I'd come home from school myself, but still go to theirs to eat.  I think I was in my mid-teens before my extra-curricular activities became so much that it stopped being a regular thing.  But I still spent a lot of time 'over the road' - I did homework there, I'd go and pick raspberries in the garden, I'd go over when I knew they'd be having tea and cake.  Pretty much all the exams I've ever taken had been revised for on their dining room table and my PhD thesis was dedicated to them.

Nanny died several years ago now, and my mum gradually cleared out their house.  My brother and I were allowed to take whatever we wanted - and we took things which reminded us, in different ways, of our childhoods.  The one thing I wanted was Nanny's patchwork quilt.

When I was little, I used to stay overnight at Nanny and Grandad's quite regularly and I would sleep in their bed with Grandad in the spare room.  They had a proper old-fashioned sprung bed (so good for bouncing on!) which was made up with lots of sheets and eiderdowns.  I think seven layers was the most I ever counted.  The top layer, and my favourite layer, was the patchwork quilt.

I've asked Mum when it was made, and she says there are photos of me on it as a baby, so it definitely was made before the early 1980s.  I reckon it's older than that.  In their old age, Nanny and Grandad had used duvets, so we had to have a bit of a hunt for this quilt as we didn't know where it had been put away.  Mum eventually found it - I hadn't seen it for a number of years, but it was as lovely as I'd remembered.

I washed it on the handwash cycle of the washing machine - it clearly hadn't been washed for years (decades?) and the water was pretty grey by the end of the wash cycle!  I hung it in the garden to dry and then it was packed away again.  I was still living in Durham at the time and didn't really have a use for it.

Fast forward a few years, and when Mum came to stay last week, I asked if she could bring it up, which she did.  I've decided it is just too lovely to stay in a bag any longer.  I hung it out on the clothes line to get a bit of air.

I love it.  I remember when I was little, and tucked up in bed, Nanny would tell me where the material came from - there's a table cloth, a bridesmaid dress, material from dresses my mum had as a child.  

Some of the patches are quite worn.  My plan is to just leave these alone - I'm not planning on using this quilt very often, just in the summer, and as I don't have any pets I'm not concerned about sharp claws.  One friend of mine did comment that I could 'be brave' and replace them, but I'm definitely not that brave! 

I'm sure I had a favourite bit when I was little - I always slept on the same side of their bed and I'm sure I insisted on a certain corner being near my pillow.  It sounds like something I would do.  I don't have a favourite bit now, it all makes me happy.

Sewing has never been my thing - I quite like doing cross stitch patterns, but I've never been particularly interested in learning to sew properly.   I think I'll stick to making things with wool and leave the sewing machines to other people!

Looking at these hexagons, I think this blue one with red and white flowers below might have been my favourite but that might just be my favourite now.  One of the hexagons is a textured material and feeling that bit when I wasn't expecting it took me back so strongly to being little and in my grandparents' bed.  It's funny how something can have such a vivid memory attached.

At a Brownie sleepover I ran earlier this year, one Brownie came along with a cot-sized crocheted blanket.  As she was making her bed, it caught my eye (naturally) and I asked her about it.  She said she knew it was too small for her, but her grandmother had made it for her when she was born and her grandmother had died a few years ago.  My Brownie was going to keep the blanket as it reminded her of her grandmother.  I said this was a lovely thing to do, and that I had a special blanket as well.  Since posting a photo of my blanket on social media, several friends have commented on how they have inherited a special handmade item as well.  I love that these items are bringing so much happiness to so many generations of families.  

I know Nanny would love it too.


  1. It's even more beautiful close up than in the picture you sent. So glad you got to keep it.

    I had a lovely shawl my mum made me when I was a baby and I kept it until I went to university and it had to be thrown away as it had disintegrated in spite of its many repairs

    1. My brother had a teddy bear when he was little which eventually lost its head - Mum has sewn it on so many times, but now there isn't really any fabric left to sew it together. I think it's being held on literally by a couple of stitches!

  2. What a gorgeous blanket, that's great it's getting use again. And I love the story of the Brownie one! :)

  3. What a lovely quilt and such a special thing to have. I'm currently sewing a quilt by hand, I wonder if one day my grandchildren will have memories such as yours :)

  4. this was a wonderful post to read, and what a lovely coincidence that your Brownie is doing something similar :) you are really fortunate to have such a beautiful keepsake and such wonderful memories of your Nanny - 3 of my grandparents had died before I was born, and my Grandma (dad's mum) passed away when I was 12, but lived so far away anyway that I have very few memories of her. Hearing about everyone elses memories though make me very happy :) they are always very touching. jenny xx

  5. This is so beautiful, I love items that have special memories attached to them.

  6. This is lovely! I do wish I'd had more time with my grandparents; didn't know my Dad's mom (gran) too well. Was close to my nan (mom's mom) but she died when I was around 11. Still miss her lots! She'd sew, knit and crochet lots of things for us. Wish I still had them all!


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