Central Minn. woman makes 75 heritage quilts for family members - with a twist
Arlean Rosemore used different materials she'd collected, some more than 120 years old
PEQUOT LAKES — Arlean Rosemore’s email address says it all with the word “fabraholic” in it.
What is the 85-year-old Pequot Lakes woman’s latest project?
I was a keeper.
She made a mere 75 small heritage quilts for relatives out of long-saved fabrics, embroidered items, printed feed sacks from the 1930s and ‘40s, doilies, aprons, table linens, clothing and “pretty hankies from many of my relatives.”
“I was a keeper,” Rosemore said at her home, where quilts of varying sizes fill all the rooms, whether hanging on walls, covering beds or stacked on a bed in a spare room.
The project started when Rosemore’s family told her she had to downsize. She had a box filled with plastic bags of fabrics and materials, each bag labeled with the name of the person the item came from.
“Well what does that mean to anyone? Nothing,” Rosemore said, noting some fabric is at least 120 years old. “I put it all in tubs, dumped them, mixed them up and started cutting.”
The end result was 75 beautiful 50 by 50 quilts made of 5-inch squares and hand-sewn.
“I hand quilted all of them,” she said, noting she had given out 59 quilts so far to family members.
Rosemore started with her four children and eight grandchildren, spreading to extended family from there. The only people she gives a quilt to are those who come to see her, she said.
Then there’s a twist.
The very funny thing is that only eight or nine have found the secret. A lot of them are very educated persons and are a bit put off because I pulled one over on them. I never dreamed it would be that hard to find and it is great fun for me.
“”I wanted to share this with the family, but I thought, ‘This is too darn easy,’” Rosemore said.
So to add interest, she put a “secret” in each quilt, challenging all who receive a quilt to find their secret.
“Oh my gosh do they look,” she said with a chuckle, noting those who find the secret are told not to share it with others.
“The very funny thing is that only eight or nine have found the secret,” she said. “A lot of them are very educated persons and are a bit put off because I pulled one over on them. I never dreamed it would be that hard to find and it is great fun for me.”
It took a few tries to get a version of a quilt she liked. One was too small. Two were too big. One had too many pieces. Those quilts are in her bedroom, along with a turkey red “rescue quilt” she repaired and has on her bed.
“It’s our family. It’s our history,” she said of the heritage quilts she’s made. “Treat it like fine china. It’s not to be a dog bed.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rosemore documented many of her quilts in a binder complete with photos and the stories behind the quilts.
To that end, Rosemore is also a writer who has published three books of her own and helped on a fourth.
She helped her brother write “An Alaskan Haul Road,” with stories of his job as an ice road trucker.
She published “A Small Town is Like a Large Family,” which includes eulogies she has written; and “Whimsical Witticisms,” a book of jokes with information on how laughter is good for us.
“”I love a good joke but I don’t like them long and drawn out,” she said. “I like one-liners. So I guarantee any page you open up you’ll get a laugh.”
Her latest book is titled “Get Off My Tractor,” and includes 59 short stories drawn from Rosemore’s memories “as far back as I can remember right up to present day. I was a child 80 years ago. Things have changed.”
Her granddaughters, Morena and Dana Hammer, illustrated the book. Most, but not all, stories are humorous.
“Get Off My Tractor,” plus copies of more stories that didn’t make it into the book, are available from Rosemore at P.O. Box 878, Pequot Lakes, MN 56472, and at Mother Originals Quilt Shop in Pequot Lakes (218-568-6924).
It is also available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Whether writing or quilting - and despite two strokes that left her blind in one eye and with partial sight in the other - Rosemore shows no signs of slowing down. A favorite spot is in her kitchen at her 1914 Singer Red Eye treadle sewing machine, looking out into the beauty of the woods.
“When I get about two-thirds done I’m thinking of the next project,” she said.
Nancy Vogt, editor, may be reached at 218-855-5877 or email@example.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.