Remembering Dad and The $50 Quilt


Today is my Daddy's birthday. He passed away almost 20 years ago and some years when June 2nd rolls around I simply go about my day remembering all the wonderful times we spent together knowing what a lucky girl I was having him for a Dad. The year, things are different and I'm not exactly sure why.

If you're reading this chances are you're a quilter. You may not have met my father, Garrett Raterink or even heard of him but I can guarantee you he's probably touched your quilting life without you even knowing it. 

Have you ever used a slotted quilting stencil? My father invented the machine that made the first stencils during the 1930s. Do you use a raised edge thimble? That was my Daddy too! He brought that to the marketplace in the 1980s. Quilt kits? I bet if you're like me, you have quite a few. Dad's first job was with the leading manufacturer of quilt kits in the United States - a company he ultimately purchased. He sold quilting supplies for almost 70 years.  I started helping in the family business when I was only 5 years old by putting together catalogs for the quilting stencils. My father sure touched my quilting life and set it on a path I need to begin taking the time to nurture and share beyond what I've done so far.  It was almost 10 years ago when I posted the My Life in Stitches page to the blog. It's remained mostly a hidden page, rarely seen or talked about.  Perhaps it was a $50 quilt coming into my life last month that changed things this year.

Look at the title of this auction listing - It was a Buy It Now listing with the following pictures - 

The description read -

this quilt is a vintage machine made it does have a little discolor but in great shape see pictures


Before I tell you what I already knew, what would you think? Machine made................really? All that applique........ machine made? All that quilting..............machine made?  Seriously???

What in the world made this seller think this was a machine made quilt? I knew the applique design of the quilt was made from a Wurzburg quilt kit even though some of the quilting designs were different. I also knew it was kit #3555 Formal Garden which was their most popular kit. I already own two of this design but just had to gamble the $50 to check it out.

The minute I took it out of the box, I knew there was something very special about this quilt! There was not one machine stitch in the entire quilt! The border strips were even sewn on by hand as was the tiny pink binding.

There was a slight color difference between the center section of the quilt and the borders. It shows up much more in this photograph than it actually is. Look at that amazing pineapple quilting design.

Look at all the feather quilting - it's just beautiful! The quilt is quilted in a style similar to the kit but using designs that are slightly different. There are some added designs I really like and haven't seen before. This quilt maker chose to make the quilt her own by using her own quilting designs - bravo!!!

A sweet butterfly looks at a very nicely tinted and embroidery embellished flower, appliqued by hand with buttonhole stitch!

Embroidered stems, satin stitched centers, variegated embroidery floss - all by hand!

I love the tinting on these old quilts. Sometimes it was air brushed and other times it was done by stenciling the color.



There was a palette of 6 or 7 solid colors of pre-cut binding that was included in the kits. Don't quote me on that being the exact number of colors because I'm at the cottage and don't have my binding samples in front of me to be sure. You received a little roll in your kit and both outside edges were turned under a scant 1/4" so it seems logical to me that you'd sew down one folded edge by hand (like applique) and fold over to the opposite side and applique that down to finish the edge of the quilt.  When I get home I'll add a picture of a binding roll to this post. If I forget, someone remind me.

Look at this quilting - look at it again - and again. Those are the tiniest stitches I have ever seen in a quilt. That cross hatch is about 1" square and I counted 16 stitches to the inch in several places. I couldn't achieve that in three lifetimes of hand quilting. Yes, there is batting in the quilt! So much for a machine sewn quilt!!!


My Dad was a real pack rat when it came to things from the Wurzburg Company. If it had something to do with quilting or hand embroidery he stashed it away. He always joked he was saving it for posterity. As a kid I always thought, "ya, whatever that means, Dad". As the years went by and I followed in his footsteps, staying in the quilting industry, I realize the truly amazing thing he had done by saving what he did. I was in the 8th grade when we moved from our house on Eldon to the Oakwood address some of you may have visited. My Mom must have put her foot down and told my Dad they were not moving all that Wurzburg Company stuff to the new house. My Dad filled an entire trailer full of patterns and ephemera and took it to the dump. How lucky we are he saved everything that had to do with quilting and hand embroidery.  In the Oakwood house he had the attic and basement for storage and operations and he used every inch!



I fear my husband and children may feel as my Mother did. I don't have a walk-in attic but if you could see my basement, you might shudder in fear.  I took on the responsibility of storage for a great deal of those things.  I haven't used every inch of space but when you add my own quilting treasures  - yikes - it's overwhelming! 


I think the $50 quilt may be my reminder that I really need to focus on all of this, share it with those who are interested and find the right museum to truly save these things for posterity. I remember my Dad asking me what direction I'd like to take my quilting and remember my answer too -  I told him "my future is in the past". I really do need to tell the stories, of who did what and when and why. There are so many prominent families linked together, working together, having a great deal of fun together and quilting! 

I keep saying I'll work on this and never seem to get to it. Some of you can probably relate to the problems of time and money - we never seem to have enough of either. There are bills to pay and regular work takes priority. I'm sure it's the same for every generation but these stories will end with me so I'm feeling the weight of that responsibility. Where's a winning lottery ticket when you need one?

It's not just time and money, I still have so many 1800s quilts I want to share. If that era is your passion, don't panic. There are lots more to come but I'm going to try to put the spotlight on my family history and 1930s in a special way while we continue to make 1800s quilts. I have some ideas on how to do that and hope you'll like them.  Some will be easy and some a bit more complicated. I'll keep you posted but for today....................   

Thank you Dad, for always being there to support me, guide me, encourage me and make me believe I could do anything in the world I wanted to do - even today!  Happy Birthday!



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25 Responses to “Remembering Dad and The $50 Quilt”

  1. Laurie Sanders June 2, 2019 at 1:54 pm #

    what a great tribute to your Dad! I love the $50 quilt…and I didn’t win the lottery either :/
    I guess we’ll try again next week! laurie

  2. Jacque June 2, 2019 at 3:02 pm #

    Oh Gay – what treasures! And what a lovely way to keep memories of your dad alive. So glad he saved so much and you have a place to store it and go through it as you can. I love quilts from the 30s too – and have about 25 or 30 quilts that my great-grandmother made in the 30s – such treasures to me too! I look forward to your showing more of your “inheritance” and am so glad your dad gave you the foundation for your love of quilting and that you’re passing it on to us!

  3. Darlynn Venne June 2, 2019 at 3:22 pm #

    Gay! What an amazing post.I love the story of your dad’s keepsakes from working and his dedication to the quilting world. We all now know where your talents are rooted. The $50 quilt was meant to be. i am so glad you have it. Blessings, d

  4. Lin McQuiston June 2, 2019 at 4:40 pm #

    I think Jacque has said it best. What loving memories you have of your father. And what a fantastic legacy he has handed down to you with his collections, but also instilling his love for the craft and sharing his talents with the world. I can understand how you feel the burden of seeing his legacy continue into the future. Learning and seeing more of both his and your collection will be exciting.

  5. LoriD June 2, 2019 at 6:12 pm #

    That is so special, Gay. Thank you for sharing about your dad and both of your passions!
    That “machine” made quilt is so wonderful and spectacular! Good eye!!

  6. Holly Field June 2, 2019 at 7:56 pm #

    Hello. What a beautiful blog. My Dad has only been gone two years & 10 months. I still miss him every day. He had Alzheimer’s the last twenty years, but never forgot who I was. In the same way your Dad made a huge difference in the quilting world my Dad made a difference in the dairy cow genetics world. He was also the best father one could ever have
    Your “basement stuff” is fascinating. I look forward to seeing more about it.
    I saw that eBay listing probably minutes before you. I was distracted by something then it was gone! You were meant to have that amazing quilt.
    Thank you for all you do for our quilting world. Have you ever thought about writing a book about your Dad? I’ve written a children’s book about mine.

  7. Elaine June 2, 2019 at 9:29 pm #

    What treasures!! I !I’ve seeing them, thank you for sharing your dad!

  8. Evelyn Pecht June 3, 2019 at 2:06 am #

    Thank you for sharing. I loved seeing the beautiful handmade quilt. Truly a treasure.

  9. Cécile June 3, 2019 at 2:44 am #

    I’m afraid my english won’t be perfect to tell you that the link -that special link !- between your Dad and you is thread, the love of fabrics and quilts !
    No doubt he inspired your life !

    Thank you for sharing these memories and the pictures of that awesome quilt !!

  10. Sue H June 3, 2019 at 3:44 am #

    This is such a heartwarming post. Sometimes dads don’t even realize the impact they have on their daughters. My father also supported my habit although he didn’t work with fabric. Thanks, Gay, for sharing your memories.

  11. Barbara A. Brackman June 3, 2019 at 10:15 am #

    Gay—posterity might be the Quilt Research Collection at the University of Nebraska Libraries. They would love to have his stuff. See a post on the project here:

  12. LuAnn Krug June 3, 2019 at 12:04 pm #

    Hi Gay What a great post. You said it so beautifully – where do we find the time? I have several family quilts I’d love to pattern plus family genealogy that is swirling around in my head while the rest is stored in boxes in the closet. There are photos that no one but me can identify. When I go, it will all be lost because I know that no one will know or care about it. You have given me some food for thought. That $50 quilt is amazing. I’m glad you took a chance on it. It was nice to read about your Dad. Mine has been gone 24 years, and I still miss him, too.

  13. Beverly Crabb June 4, 2019 at 4:27 am #

    I was immediately transported to my Grand Rapids childhood. What a delightful post! I did follow the link to your life in stitches post to read the history. Is there more than the one post?? How do I get to it?? I certainly hope that the local quilt guilds are familiar with the story. It is a piece of West Michigan history that should be passed on.
    Thank you for making my coffee time so special this morning.

  14. Belarmina Antuña June 4, 2019 at 8:16 am #

    Gay que homenaje más emocionante. ¡¡¡ Felicidades !!!
    Esta colcha es impresionante.
    Gracia spor compartir

  15. Nancy June 8, 2019 at 6:12 am #

    What a wonderful tribute to your father, Gay. And how great that he saved so much from his days at the Wurzburg Company. I can understand noon-quilters not being able to see the worth or value of these things but those of us who quilt can. Personally, I’l love to see these things in a museum or even see great photographs of them. Gorgeous quilt and that box with those dolls: delightful! Thanks for sharing.

  16. Robin June 9, 2019 at 11:34 pm #

    What loving wonderful memories you have of your Dad. Your testimony in your blog honors him. It pains me that he had to trash the earliest part of the collection. From one fabric collector (horder) to another collector of company items, I’m sure that hurt but as the saying goes “Happy wife, Happy home.” He must have loved your mom a lot. Thank you also for the history lesson. Is the company still in business? Do you run it?

  17. Diane R. June 11, 2019 at 6:12 am #

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories. I’m pretty new to quilting, still learning as I go. I’m sure my husband thinks I already have enough fabrics & projects to last beyond my lifetime. Ha! Mom taught me to cook, sew clothes & toys and take care of a home. Dad taught me to build things, take care of a car, mow the lawn. They both gave me a love of gardening and the outdoors and so much more than can be listed here. Treasure those memories and share them as often as you possibly can. It’s much appreciated.

  18. Ginabeth Young June 30, 2019 at 7:37 am #

    Gay, what an interesting story. So glad your dad and you worked to keep quilting alive.
    I’m currently reading Legacy, a story of a Southern Lady, and her struggles and the wonderful quilts she made.
    Happy B’day to your angel Dad too!

  19. Gay June 30, 2019 at 12:14 pm #

    Hi Beverly,

    I haven’t published any additional family history yet. I’m working on more now and hope to have it on the web site later this year.

  20. Wendy July 1, 2019 at 9:55 am #

    What an awesome legacy you have been left with! I used to shop at Wurzburgs with my mom many years ago. I Love your $50 quilt and would be interested in seeing your collection if you ever choose to show it.I know how you feel about it. I have a collection of old laces, vintage linens, and a Redwork quilt top that were passed down to me. I would love to donate all to a museum. I would hate for my kids to just toss it all after I am gone. Looking forward to reading more in the following months. Thank you!

  21. Vivian B. July 1, 2019 at 10:29 am #

    Gay, I’ve told you before that I always get a thrill at seeing the projects and patterns that you share. However, after reading this today, I now really understand the wellspring from where your creativity and interests in quilts comes from! How lucky you were to have such a wonderful Dad and even better that you saw fit to follow in his footsteps in your own fashion. I truly hope you find a museum (or two!) that can house your collection. For right now, perhaps you could put aside just a little time each day (I know, I know…!) to write a lecture or a magazine article (which later may become part of a book?) on just your special Wurzburg collection and your family connection to it. I think you have a lot of information to share about this particular company and it’s one that I for one didn’t know about before today. This can be another way to pass along your father’s legacy for posterity. I only recently purchased a few vintage tops and quilts and truly wish I could know the stories they hold in their making.

  22. Susan July 11, 2019 at 1:34 pm #

    What a lovely post and remembrance of your father. You have treasures untold there, and so much knowledge to share. I hope you reach a point where you can devote more time to recording, and that you find a wonderful museum to hold it all.

  23. Carmen Montmarquet July 25, 2019 at 7:12 am #

    Thank You so much for sharing this story about your dad. I loved reading about his accomplishments, he certainly was a very special man!! And how natural it was for you to follow in his footsteps. I am glad i discovered your blog and hope you continue to share your stories!!


  24. jean fletcher July 31, 2019 at 9:39 am #

    What a fantastic resource of info that you have! You really need to open a museum with all that, but sharing it here really helps those who would never get there. Keep sharing those memories while you still can. Treasures under the bed!

  25. Janice July 31, 2019 at 10:50 am #

    I agree with Vivian B, wondering if you couldn’t put together a trunk show and give lectures to quilt groups and museums? I love the idea of putting together a magazine article and/or a book! I am in awe of this gorgeous quilt! I’m a new follower, love vintage quilts. Anything vintage in fact! Look forward to reading more about of your family history. Jan in MA

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