|Story of a Collector
Patricia L. Cummings
I have loved textiles since I was a child including the pretty dresses my mother bought for
going to church and for special occasions, always worn with white anklet socks trimmed
with lace, and black patent leather shoes. I loved bed covers and still have one of them, a
pink bedspread with silver highlights given to me by a doting older sibling and to
accompany a twin size “Hollywood” bed she bought me, all the rage in the 1950s time
Quilts such as this hand-pieced, hand-quilted Sunflower quilt was made (by me) and given away to
a family member who loves Sunflowers.
My mother always decorated the table with linen tablecloths sometimes with an overlay of
lace. I have inherited her love of all textiles. I wish I had some outfits I made myself and
wore in a 4-H dress review as a child. I have the ribbon I won but not the heather
gray/green square neck jumper with pockets and the umpire style, stand-up collar, white
blouse with long lace-trimmed Bell sleeves. I wish I had the taffeta dress that was full-
length, light blue with small yellow and pink colors in an overlay time fashion and is one
that I wore to a special officer’s club dinner at Pease AFB when I was dating an ROTC
I can remember the type of clothes I brought with me to Spain: long blue skirts in
polyester, white blouses, and a purple polyester jump suit that met its demise when I
inadvertently backed into an estufa (gas heater) while dancing and one pants leg melted!
Pillow made with all natural fibers found and harvested in Afghanistan. Purchased from Rubia, an
international coalition that raises money for literacy. The back has the maker's name embroidered
in Persian script.
In my closet hangs the dress I wore for my First Communion. To go along with it, I have
photos of me wearing the dress. Clothes can take on many associations and greater
meaning due to the circumstances when they were worn or used. When I look back at old
family photos, I fondly remember sweaters I knit and items I crocheted for myself of
others. There is a photo that shows my nephew wearing a cable knit sweater I made for
him in a pretty blue. I can recall a beautiful pull-over sweater with an Icelandic neckline
that did not quite fit when it was finished. I have a tendency to knit too tightly.
I have saved many of the quilted vests, even ones that no longer fit. I have most of the
Crazy Quilt miniature quilts I made as a series of 8 in the 1990s. One I gave to be
auctioned for a good cause, and several others I gave away.
An example of a "Sweetheart" pillow that is included in the book, Sweetheart & Mother
Pillows by Patricia Cummings, a book currently available from the author
As an adult, I collected examples of textiles that intrigued me: Sweetheart & Mother
pillow covers, pillows, quilts with interesting patterns, Redwork items, and small sewing
aids such as pincushions. These items were featured on the pages of The Quilter magazine
and in other news sources. All of these textiles and related items stand out clearly in
memory, even those that have found new homes.
1970s quilt from the Lewis Family Collection
It is difficult for a collector to let collected items “go,” I have learned. In the case of
clothing, it seemed reasonable at the time to send them to new homes when they no longer
fit. One cannot keep everything. Yet, in looking back, there are some textiles I wish I had
Then, there are all of the mini- quilts, pieces of embroidery, dolls, and pincushions I have
made. I am happy to have photos of many of them that I have sent off to friends all over the
world. The fun was in the making, the sharing, and the making of memories. Whatever you
collect, whether it is tea cups, marbles, or trading cards (or something else), enjoy the
process. A new “find” to a collector is always fun!
September 2014. Patricia L. Cummings, Quilter's Muse Publications, Concord, New