Elizabeth G. Delozier (July 21, 1903 – Jan 21, 1996) was my husband’s grandmother. She was known to her family as Mamsey. She was a strong, hard-working, devoted woman who lived in a farming community in eastern Maryland. She was very self-reliant, frugal, and lived off the land.
Mamsey had a pioneer spirit with a sprinkle of renegade in her. I have gotten to know her through her legacy of handwork and the larger-than-life stories that my husband has shared with me.
Back in the 1950s, when her grandchildren were very small, she made Pinwheel quilts for the oldest granddaughter, Phyllis, and also for the twin grandsons, Kenneth and Steven. These quilts were used back then — slept under, drug around, washed and rewashed. Each of these 3 Pinwheel quilts are now in their own homes, stored away to pass on to the next generation.
Mamsey’s Pinwheel Quilts (c.1955) vary slightly in size, but the quilts have all been made with many of the same cotton fabrics. The Pinwheel quilts were made for Mamsey’s grandchildren and were used when they visited and stayed overnight with Mamsey.
Evidently the kids loved to spend the night with Mamsey and PapPaw, their grandfather. They didn’t live far away, but their bare-to-the-bones hand-to-mouth lifestyle was different from the home where the grandchildren lived. The kids knew this and enjoyed the farm and old-fashioned lifestyle that their grandparents lived. Mamsey and PapPaw raised all of their own foods, they didn’t have indoor plumbing, and there wasn’t any form of heat or cooking except for the wood cook stove and the woodstove in the main parlor area. There were pigs and cows and chickens and outbuildings to hang out in. There was even a tin can dump-area to toss rocks into.
When Mamsey set out to make the three Pinwheel quilts, she rummaged in her scrap basket and stash of cotton fabrics that she had collected over the years. The Pinwheel quilts were all made with cotton feedsacks and a variety of cotton fabric scraps.
Each of the Pinwheel quilts was filled with used blanket waddings rather than cotton batting because that’s what she had on hand. The quilt backs were a solid shade of denim-blue cotton. The quilt layers were all hand-tied with a white 3-twist cotton thread. The blocks were machine stitched, and the quilt top was assembled by machine. The quilt bindings were machine-stitched back-to-front.
One of the Pinwheel quilts was in very poor condition. I volunteered to restore this quilt, which meant repairing the quilt, too. The quilt layers were taken apart so that the disintegrating filler could be replaced with a thin cotton batting that might have been used at the time the quilt was originally made by Mamsey.
About 10 patchwork sections needed to be replaced so feedsack cottons of the same era were used. The triangular patchwork pieces used from these cottons were appliqued on top of the damaged patchwork pieces of fabrics, preserving the original fabrics underneath.
When the quilt top was finished and the quilt was ready to reassemble, a new quilt backing was selected, matching the original shade of denim-blue originally used. After the quilt was hand-tied, and the binding was sewn, the Pinwheel Quilt was almost finished.
A quilt label was made for this Pinwheel quilt, naming the quiltmaker, Elizabeth G. Delozier. The other 2 Pinwheel Quilts also have quilt labels now, too, preserving these family heirlooms for another generation.