Saturday, January 20, 2018

Quilters Through The Generations - Dorothy Spriester

Today I introduce to you Dorothea (Dorothy) Spriester.  She happens to be the Mother-in-law of one of my Sisters-in-law (though really, more like a sister)...

Dorothy Spreister was born and raised in Wheaton, Illinois and was a lover of the arts… all facets of art. 

Music was always a large part of Dorthea's life. She was a music teacher in the public schools and continued to teach French Horn students privately. Dorothy was a member of several bands and orchestras including Lake Forest Symphony, Northshore Concert Band and Deerfield Community Band. She was most proud of instilling the joy of music to her six children, who played musical instruments throughout their school years, and was able to experience the joy of music.
Her hobbies included music, painting, gardening, genealogy, travel, quilting and grandchildren.

Here you can see how several of her “loves” came together with an antique French horn, turned fountain in her garden…

Her daughter, Pam shared with me, 

“My mother sewed all the time but mainly made clothes for her daughters and herself. She also loved to make craft items and at one time sold her handmade items.”

Above is an example of her paintings...

She had been working on a top for a quilt but never had the opportunity to finish it when she unexpectedly passed away following a surgery in 2009.

I had the honor of finishing Dorothy’s quilt… 

“You were so nice to complete the quilt and my father, Al, had it on his bed after my mother died.” stated Pam Spriester Bell

After receiving the unfinished quilt top, along with the assorted fabrics she had used in the blocks, I spent a great deal of time studying the blocks she had pieced and appliqued.  It needed borders, and the intended finished size was to be a queen, but I wanted the borders to reflect Dorothy's style of quilting, not mine.  I chose a piano key border as the final border.  

I tried to get an understanding of the significance of the blocks and her reasoning for including them.

House block… 

I asked Sharon (married to ron, one of Dorothy’s son’s) about the number embroidered on the block - 1708, aware of her passion for genealogy, I thought it was a year – perhaps the year someone came to the US.  She told me that it was their home's address in Deerfield where they raised their family.

Tree block… 

When my own children were small Sharon and I often planned outings and play dates together.  One of the “annual” outings included apple picking.  Dorothy had kindly invited us to her house to pick apples from their apple trees in the garden.  One of the blocks has four trees on it… no doubt a representation of her trees in the four seasons.  And I just love that she picked fabric with red in it as the apples!

There are several blocks with flowers and hearts… her love for gardening and her family represented here. 

Below are pictures from a trip to Europe with her grand-daughter, Janna,  and with her youngest son and his family in Belguim, in 2008

And the stars??? Well maybe they are representative of her love for travel, a bit of wanderlust... 


These thoughts are all simply my speculation, but I don’t think I am too far off...

When the quilt was completed I was able to deliver it to Sharon & Ron in person.

Pam recalls,
"my mother's grandmother, Dora Miller, quilted. Dora was a sewer like most women growing up in the late 1800s.  This is who taught Mom to sew.

"This Sunbonnet Sue quilt is one of Dora's.  I don't know if she quilted one for each of her granddaughters or if the quilt was handed down thru my grandmother, Dorothy Miller, one of Dora's daughters. I'm not sure of the dating - 1940s or perhaps 1950s?" 

If that is the case, based on the style of fabric, the Sunbonnet Sue quilt may have been a wedding gift for Dorothy and Al, as they were married in 1951.

"My grandmother Dorothy was born in 1907 and although she learned how to sew, I don't remember her ever sewing,  but I know she had a sewing machine. I don't think she found it relaxing and preferred to put her attention to volunteer activities." 

"The only time we collaborated on a project was for my niece, Tracie. We, her grandmother and aunts,  each sewed a block of the quilt for her confirmation. My mother Dorothy came up with the idea, and we each contributed to it. That was the only time we all sat together and sewed.

"It was her idea to make a quilt for Tracie when she was confirmed and got us all involved with the project. I'm not sure why she thought it was so important to make a confirmation quilt, but she was very religious and I guess felt this would mean a lot to her especially when she was older."  

"Let me add...For my mother sewing was her nirvana. At the end of the day she would go down to the basement where for most of her married life the sewing machine was in the basement's 'utility room'. Her machine was opposite the ironing board and dryer, secluded from the tv recreation room. She liked to go down there and have some alone time to be creative and I believe it was one of her best parts of the day. 

After taking care of five children, (six shown at left - Bart was a "late arrival") giving french horn lessons, and taking care of everyone in the family, sewing offered a way to refresh and get in touch with her spirit. 

If time allowed, she would also go downstairs with her 'adult beverage' and sew a little before supper. 

"My sister Laurie has made a quilt. She is very talented with her hands and has crocheted, knitted and quilted. She made this quilt in the 1980s after she was married and it is totally hand sewn. 

I'm so glad my niece, Laurie's daughter, Bev has taken up sewing and has proved to have a natural ability!  The girl is a phenomenal sewer! But no quilt from her so far. 

And no one else in the family has attempted such big sewing projects but I'm hoping to begin one in 2018 if my courage lasts!"

You can see that Pam comes from a family that is full of great talent and skill…

My SIL, Sharon has recently "caught the crafting bug" and enjoys crochet, but is also interested in starting a quilt - She has started collecting fabric scraps using this video as a guide for her pattern...  "every piece is 2" x 3-1/2"...I have lots of smaller scraps I would like to use, and quite a bit of Ron's mom's fabric."

Why not offer some encouragement to Pam & Sharon to take the steps necessary to start a quilt this year?


  1. If Pam and Sharon want to begin a quilt, I have every confidence they can learn and become successful quilters. Thank you so much for sharing this story, Melva, and finishing Dorothy's last quilt.

  2. Hey Pam! I think you will enjoy quilting, I love it. I usually machine piece them, and then hand quilt them. All the time you spend sewing, sometimes your mind wanders, and will really focus on memories...a person, a time in life, a trip...a wonderful way to spend time, and you end up with an heirloom! Go for it, girl!