To Grand­mother’s House We Sew

A grandma and grand­daugh­ter fuse to­gether a quilt­ing legacy and love for each other.


When I was 7 years old, I sim­ply loved spend­ing the night at my grandma Ce­cilia’s house. My two sis­ters and I were fas­ci­nated with her sewing room. Our eyes lit up as we gazed in awe at the var­i­ous bas­kets that held count­less fab­ric pieces in ev­ery pos­si­ble pat­tern.

At the time, we were too small to han­dle the power of the sewing ma­chine, so we ad­mired the baby blan­kets, quilts, dresses, pa­jama pants and pil­low­cases that my grandma made for us. As we got older, we each picked a project to work on ev­ery time we slept over. My first project be­gan with close su­per­vi­sion from my grandma. We sat in the same chair, and she con­trolled the sewing ma­chine pedal while I gen­tly moved the fab­ric from side to side and back and forth. Soon I was a sewing fa­natic, fab­ri­cat­ing pil­low­case af­ter pil­low­case and giv­ing them to any relative or friend who was in­ter­ested. I cus­tom­ized each one ac­cord­ing to the re­cip­i­ent, with de­signs like elab­o­rate princess themes as well as sim­ple and el­e­gant ver­sions.

But I could only put so much cre­ativ­ity into pil­low­cases be­fore this project be­came repet­i­tive and dull. So my grandma urged me to try quilt­ing. Hav­ing seen the many quilts she had made, I was fa­mil­iar with the va­ri­ety of styles and de­signs that could be in­cor­po­rated into one piece. It was rather in­tim­i­dat­ing, know­ing I had to think of a quilt de­sign to pur­sue. But with a lit­tle help and in­spi­ra­tion from her, I got to work on my first wall quilt.

My grandma en­tered me into my first quilt­ing com­pe­ti­tion, the 2009 Racine Quilt Show, when I was 10 years old. Af­ter months of ded­i­cated prepa­ra­tion and long hours ad­her­ing to my grandma’s quilt­ing ad­vice, it was re­ward­ing to walk into the show with her and see a first-place blue rib­bon pinned to my quilt. It de­picted Snoople, my pur­ple, oc­to­pus-like imaginary friend. My grandma snapped pic­tures and told all of her quilt­ing friends. Happy to see a young face in the com­pe­ti­tion, they com­pli­mented me. I felt like a celebrity. I could tell how proud my grandma was, which made me

Ce­cilia John­son helped grand­daugh­ter El­iz­a­beth Busch be­come an award-win­ning quil­ter.

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