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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