Grandma Rose's Quilt, 2016

My grandmother Rose saved her butter wrappers in the refrigerator, taking them out when she needed to grease a pan, using up every last bit of butter that clung to the wrappers. 

For this quilt, I used a depression era pattern called “Old Maid Puzzle Piece.” Even though my grandmother was not an old maid, this felt like the right pattern to use. Rose lost her husband when she was 43. So, like an old maid too, she had support herself and her two daughters, working for 40 years as a secretary at State Farm Insurance. 

Rose was born in 1906 in the “old country” and came to the U.S. on a boat, in steerage, when she was 8 years old. She spent a night on Ellis Island, along with her sister and her mother, and then boarded a train to Chicago where she lived for the rest of her life. She grew up speaking Yiddish at home.

My grandmother was frugal about everything in her life. She had to be. I made this quilt to honor her memory and the way women historically have made the most with whatever they have had, teaching us determination, perseverance and how to be frugal.  

For as long as I can remember, my grandmother sent me boxes of chocolate chip cookies, baked on cookie sheets greased with butter wrappers saved in her refrigerator. My grandmother did not spend money on lavish gifts. She knew how to give from her heart.