Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Remembering Claire

I had two friends and readers send me the newspaper obituary sharing the info of Claire’s passing.

Lansing State Journal 12/02/2012, Page B04
Helen Claire Vlasin
East Lansing
Formerly of Nebraska, beloved wife of Raymond D. Vlasin, loving mother to 5, mother-in-law to 3, Grandmother to 8, relative to many, and beloved of her friends.
We will cherish her memory, mourn her passing, and celebrate her life and her varied and extensive legacies. A graduate of the St. Elizabeth School of Nursing at Lincoln, Nebraska and of Central Michigan University, and holding a Master’s Degree from Michigan State University. She was a stellar vocational educational advocate and professional for the Eaton Intermediate School District and Lansing Community College. As a second career and primary avocation, Claire was a judge, preserver, designer and maker of quilts, and a helper, inspiration and friend to her quilter colleagues.
She was a long-time member, reader and Eucharistic Minister at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, where her life and loving contributions will be celebrated on December 4th at 10:30 a.m. with a visitation one hour prior to the service. The family will receive friends at Gorsline Runciman Funeral Home at 1730 East Grand River, East Lansing from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Monday, December 3rd, with a Rosary Service at 7:30 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Diocese of Lansing Outreach Mass, 228 N. Walnut St, Lansing, MI 48933 or to the St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Rosary Altar Society, 955 Alton Rd, East Lansing, MI 48823. On line condolences may be made at www.greastlansing.com.
As Claire’s family and loved ones gather today to celebrate her life and put her to rest, I thought it fitting to share a pair of quilts that Claire dearly loved with you ---a matching pair, one red work, one blue work by the same maker.

While the quilts share some of the same block designs, they are not in the same order, and they also have different blocks than each other– we think that these designs were specifically chosen for each recipient –but as these quilts were acquired in an antique shop, no history is known of the maker or of those who the quilts were for.

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Blue Work Quilt, circa 1916

By this time we had quilts stacked upon quilts and there was no way I was going to stand on that tumbling blocks quilt to photograph this one straight on!  While I love all the block embroidery designs, what captured my heart was how each block was quilted – some with straight lines, some with echo quilting much like a hawaiian applique….the outlines of hand quilting echoing each other like ripples on a pond to the edge of each block.  Such great texture!

When these were found in the shop, Ray was originally going to just pick up one of the quilts ----but decided that the pair should not be separated, and he gifted them both to his lovely wife, Claire.

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Grape cluster.

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Maple Leaf.

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Red work Quilt

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Circa 1919  Beautiful wreath design!

This quilt came 3 years after the blue work quilt – could it have been made for a sibling?

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Matching Maple Leaf to the Blue Work quilt above.

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Running Horse.

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Cute bunny rabbit!  With eyelashes!

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Beautiful floral spray

Who was the woman who made these in 1916 and 1919?  Was she the grandmother?  The aunt?  The mother?  Sometimes I tend to think grandmother more, because the mother would have had her hands full with two small children by the finish of the 2nd quilt ---grandmothers have more time to occupy with handwork.  Though NOT ALWAYS!

I think it is a beautiful legacy that these two quilts are kept together.

When I was about 14 years of age, my step-grandmother Lucy Sherwood taught me to do embroidery like this ----we’d buy good old fashioned muslin and prewash it – cut it into squares, and then find designs to trace from coloring books and other sources.  I didn’t do just redwork, but used various colors of embroidery floss to color the design how I wanted it to be….pink flowers with yellow centers and green leaves in a red pot.  Those were the first quilt blocks I ever made. 

The blocks are long lost --- through a multitude of moves, they never finished being set into anything and I honestly don’t know when they disappeared, I never noticed they were gone, and I can’t remember the last time I saw them --- maybe 25 years ago?  But I see them  in my mind and wonder how many girls learned to embroider at their grandmother’s side.  I’ve always loved needle work –and I truly fell in love with these two quilts and the memories they brought to me.

Dear Claire and Ray – thank you once again for welcoming me into your home to share your beloved quilts with me.

My life is ever changed by your warmth and friendship. May angels watch over you both --


  1. May she R.I.P., The quilts are just gorgeous, I have always admire the hand quilting that went into the vintage quilts like this. Which is why I probably prefer to hand quilt over machine quilting. Although others tell me it takes to long. lol.. yep and a few drops of blood, sweat, tears and sometimes a bit of swearing. ( like when you prick your finger to hard. :P) Thanks for sharing these lovely quilts and her memories.

  2. Ms Claire's legacy lives on thru her gorgeous quilts! What a very nice, loving tribute to a wonderfully talented quilter. Ms Claire is in Heaven, embracing those who went before her. May her husband, Ray, find gentle peace and comfort. Thank-you for sharing.

  3. What a lovely person she was. So caring.

    My mother taught me to embroider when I was about 9 or so (I'm now 71). It's still my favorite hand work. I'm currently doing 5" embroidered blocks with alternating appliqued hexagon blocks. Not sure how I'll put it together...sashing or not....

  4. Thank you for sharing these with us in such a tender way, Bonnie.


  5. Quilts are lovely. I have always loved redwork and blue. Made my son and daughter baby quilts using this method. Fun to do too.

  6. i learned to cross stitch, crochet, and sew from my grandmothers when i was very young. i think it was their way of getting me and my cousin to sit still and be quiet! i can still remember going to the 'dime store' to pick up floss or yarn or the packets with the iron on transfers for cross stitch.

  7. Bonnie, thank you so much for sharing Claire and her quilts with us. My grandma taught me to knit and crochet. She was left handed and so was I. I tried to embroider, but did not do so well. This brings back lots of memories for me. Thank you once again.

  8. Perhaps the blocks with flowers are a message. This time of the quilt construction was when the "language of flowers" was used to send a message among the blooms. Pansy=think of me. Maple=reserve. Grape=charity, mirth. So a message to the user/owner of the quilts?

  9. Thank you for sharing these quilts - they are absolutely beautiful. My grandmother and aunt were very artistic, especially my aunt - she could decoratea cake that rivaled any bakery cake and she sewed doll clothes for my sister and I one year for Christmas. We each got baby dolls with clothes from her - one set pink, one set blue so we could tell whos was whos. My mother knit and did embroidery but as far as I know never sewed. None of these women taught their skills to me, but somewhere their love of creation must have gotten stuck on me. I don't decorate a cake very well - frosted is about as good as it gets, I can knit if it's not too complicated but I can quilt and I love embroidery as one of the handwork choices. I still have a doll quilt my aunt made - a six patch made with muslin and six butterflies were appliqued onto them. I have dresser scarves and table covers that my mother did the embroidery on - she bought so many things when we lived in Germany to keep her hands busy - so many were given as gifts - wish I the families would have thought about me when they were cleaning out estates - when I see hand work projects at estate sales, I almost always try to buy them - my daughter loves dresser scarves and we use them around the house.

    Today will be an especially hard day for Clair's family. I will say an extra prayer for them to get through the services and the coming days when it quiets down and they just have their memories.

  10. What a wonderful woman and a wonderful life. My grandmother taught me to do cross-stitch on printed patterns and embroidery. She and her sister were raised in an orphanage that raised money by selling the young girls' handwork. My grandma was always creating: stitching, embroidering, making lace and crocheting.

  11. Thank you for keeping us informed, I have been thinking of her all week. She was born in Nebraska, another great quilter lived in Nebraska Grace Synder.

  12. I think of quilts as a hug made with a whole lot of love. It sounds as this treasure of a lady has given a lot of love by making and preserving quilts. God bless her memory and her family

  13. Thanks for the tribute Bonnie! She was a great lady and what a wonderful husband to gift her with these treasures!
    I always get sentimental when you start to ponder the questions of who would have made this and why. I too have some redwork started and I love the look of it on the white muslin. Perhaps your blocks have ended up in an antique mall somewhere and will be found by another inquisitive browser who asks the same questions. I just hope that any of my stray blocks might be put to good use as I dread the thought of my family throwing them in the dumpster....
    Judy (waving from a snowbank in Northern Alberta Canada where it has been snowing till the cows come home....) lol

  14. Anonymous6:53 PM EST

    Those two quilts are like over 90 years old! Amazing! My dad was born in 1918 so it's so wonderful to see what the quilting looked like in that era!

  15. My paternal grandmother and aunt taught me to embroider around the age of 5. Memories....

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