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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Quilting Mama's Drunkard's Trail

by Joy Rusonis
      It seems appropriate to start my first blog by writing about my current project. This special quilt has a lot to do with why I have embraced quilting.
         The quilt is a patchwork Drunkard’s Trail with a mint green background. There are some puckers. There are some bunches. The seams don’t fit together in some places. The fabrics range from feed sacks to dress material. 
The quilt in the "flimsy stage"

It is not quilt show material. But maybe it should be. It was made for me in the 1960’s by my grandmother Mary Ida Fair Suder.  Ida, or Mama to us, was born in 1885 in a very small town in Bedford County Pennsylvania. The daughter of a cabinetmaker and undertaker and the wife of a farmer, she never moved from the town where she was born. She and my grandfather never had much money and I know she worked hard and sewed for her six children.

Mama and Pap

I was the youngest grandchild and by the time I knew her, Mama no longer had sewing she had to do. Instead, she spent her days doing the sewing she loved—piecing quilts. She sometimes made aprons or rugs (in later life, crocheted from bread wrappers!) but she always had a hand piecing project started. She made quilts for everyone—children, grandchildren, and friends. She could no longer quilt the tops herself, but she could make the colorful tops. And they were really colorful. She loved to use mint green and pink. Mama used scraps of all kinds—leftover pieces of feed bags, scraps from the clothes my mom made, even pieces cut from worn out clothes. She loved Drunkard’s Trail or its alternate configuration Devil’s Puzzle and newlyweds usually got a Wedding Ring quilt. I am not sure if Mama was ever an expert seamstress, but by her 80s her eyesight was failing and things did not always go together evenly. She didn’t consult the color wheel and just put together what she had and what she liked. I know it gave her great joy to give the tops to those she loved.

I lost track of my Drunkard’s Trail for many years. After moving several times, it somehow ended up in a box of other sewing things. I found it (and a finished quilt that my mother and grandmother had made) when looking for something to use for another project. I almost cried to know that I had been in danger of losing these treasures.

After several years of practicing my quilting skills, this spring I was finally ready to put the Drunkard’s Trail in a frame and quilt it. It took some looking, but I found a tone-on-tone green backing material that closely matched the green for the backing and binding. I decided to outline the patchwork pieces and use a pinwheel stencil in the green spaces.
In the frame
It is the first quilt that I’ve put in a frame; quilting in several directions and dealing with the various fabrics have been quite a challenge. I think it is about one third done, and I have stopped to finish a couple of other projects. But I am anxious to complete it and display it in my home as a lasting reminder of a very inspiring quilter.


  1. What a beautiful story. So happy you are taking this quilt top and quilting it. It looks so pretty. A real family treasure!

  2. looks lovely and I'm sure you do your grandmother proud finishing something she started!

  3. I was wondering how to quilt my drunkard's path quilt, I think I am going to steal your idea. I loved your article!

  4. Quilts that scrappy are so interesting!! I love the happy mix of fabrics. Your quilting is beautiful - this will be a very special quilt when you're done!

  5. What a beautiful treasure you have now and even more so once it is all finished. Your Grandmother is smiling!

  6. I love everything about this--the fact that you're finishing something your grandmother started, carrying on a tradition of making something by hand! I'll look forward to seeing the finished product!


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