Gerwe Family Quilt Part Two

Squares from the family quilt my mother and aunts gifted my grandparents for Christmas 1981. They hand stitched the squares to tell family anecdotes and history.


Row One: (Left) Uncle Bill's birthdate (Right) Uncle Bill and his wife at the time Carla loved to fish

Row Two: (Left) Saint Rose, the church my grandparents attended (Right) Grandma Mary's birthdate

Row Three: (Left) When my uncles were small, the Gerwe home was quarantined for 3 months, though the quilt key doesn't say what illness caused the quarantine

Gerwe Family Quilt Part One

Row One: (Left) Grandma Gerwe was not known for cooking, this is a phrase she coined after one of her less than successful dinners (Right) Grandpa Gerwe's birthdate

Row Two: (Left) Uncle Dave's birthdate (Right) At the time, Uncle Dave's family was known for moving frequently, depicted here with their moving truck and suitcases

Row Three: (Left) Grandma Gerwe's favorite cat, Mary (Right) Grandma & Grandpa's home at the time 


A new year, a new location (I recently moved back to Cincinnati, Ohio) and lots of new quilts to come! This is a lap quilt I just finished- shades of naturally dyed indigo and black, mixed with vintage calico fabric. As you can see, winter has arrived in Cincinnati; we just got our first snow of the year. 

The Gerwe Quilt Caper

For Christmas in 1981, my mom and aunts decided to make something really special for my grandparents- a picture quilt depicting the story of our family. Each woman was responsible for a few blocks- they illustrated family history, the birth dates of all the family members, portraits of the next generation. After my grandmother passed away, the quilt hung on our living room wall and I would sit and look at all of the different squares, asking my mom to explain the family stories. It's probably my favorite object and I love this scrapbook they made to document the process. Next week my mom and I are planning on getting the quilt out to take a look and some pictures- it's been in storage for years. Can't wait to see it again.

Brazilwood & Iron

When a friend recently visited who also loves natural dyes, we decided to experiment with a brazilwood vat and iron modifier. This was my first time working with brazilwood, a heartwood that produces deep crimson reds. Brazilwood is used to create violin bows, so the sawdust created from that process is a 100% eco and recycled dye material, which you can purchase here. We first mordanted the fabric in aluminum acetate, so the dye would bond to the fabric. After extracting the dye from the brazilwood shavings, we heated the fabric in the dye vat and let it soak overnight.  The longer you let fabric sit in a vat, the deeper and more color fast your results will be.

It's always exciting to remove the fabric from the vat and see what you've got- the results of the brazilwood were a saturated burgundy wine color. After rinsing and wringing out the fabric, we experimented with dipping some of it in an iron solution. Iron "saddens" or darkens dyes; we tied some of the pieces to get a more textured look, and some fabric we dipped completely. The iron changed the color to a much deeper, darker purple. It's truly amazing how much the colors change when you wash and dry them though- while the final results looked like a deep reddish purple hanging wet on the line, the fabric was a light to medium true purple once washed and dried. Can't wait to incorporate these unusual shades into my quilting work!