My Grandma’s Quilts


Edith Benna, my grandmother had 11 children, all born at home.

Her sister was her midwife. Her last child was born upstairs in the old farmhouse, while downstairs the other children were quarantined because one of them had scarlet fever.

No matter the weather, even in the bitterly cold Northern Iowa winters, water was hauled in from the pump outside and heated on a wood stove.

She and my grandpa played music together….she on the piano and he on the fiddle. A happy, social couple, they hosted barn dances.

She lost him when her youngest was only 3 years old.

After his death, they had to leave the farm. As a widow, she was always resourceful, working hard to support and nurture her children. She eventually returned to the piano, but there were certain songs she was never able to play again.

By the time she reached mid-life she was a respected member of her community, always offering her hands and heart to those in need, generously sharing the little she had.

In addition to weaving and making quilts she always made a baby quilt for each of her new grandbabies. Every quilt was handstitched…no machines. When I look at the tiny stitching I am amazed. And there weren’t the funds to go buy new fabric….all of the quilts we made from her own stores of well worn clothes.

The quilting was often done communally. In a time when the work was endless, this was a way that women could get together and still get some work done. They would experiment with new patterns, and were very creative.

I still have the quilt Grandma made for me hanging in our meditation/guest room. It makes me happy. It’s colorful and charming and perfectly suited to me. I even have hazy memories of snuggling under it’s soft warmth.

When I look at it I feel her love.

What a legacy she gave me. I only hope I can be half the woman and grandmother that she was.

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One Response to My Grandma’s Quilts

  1. Masako Wada says:

    What a great story of your grandma!

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