Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fibery (but non-knitting) Content

I would like to introduce you to Helbo! Helbo is a family quilt that has been around a LONG time...almost 100 years! A couple posts ago I shared a picture of my Great Grandmother who died just before I was born, Winnifred Lucy Kirkland Tisdale. My Grandma Hopkins remembers her Mother, Winnie, carding wool for the batting of her quilts.

I am privileged to have three quilts from her. One is a crazy quilt in cotton and without the decorative stitching...she made one for each of her three granddaughters (my Mom and her sisters) and they were made from pieces of family clothing or the scraps leftover when articles were cut out to sew the family's clothing. Both my Mother and I slept under this quilt and enjoyed looking at the fabrics and knowing the stories behind them. The second is a Rose of Sharon applique quilt made about 1935 for her son Clifton Tisdale's wedding. Clifton's wife 'Nora gave it to my Mother when she got married and my Mother gave it to me. One day I will pass it on to my children.

The third quilt is Helbo. Helbo is rough, heavy and sometimes smelly and he has a funny name! LOL As a child, when I asked about Helbo, I was told that he was the name of the tailor who gave Great Grandma Tisdale wool suiting samples that were being discontinued. She then used these to sew these into a warm blanket. Interesting, I thought at the time, and I wondered who Helbo was and where he lived. Grandma Hopkins was in her late 80s-early 90s when I started asking genealogy questions and she could not remember who Helbo was, other than a tailor.

In 1995, I was still single and zipping about in my little Volkswagen Fox (which I still miss!) and after a nice Hopkins family reunion at Pacific, Washington, I decided to take a few extra days and explore the southwest corner of Washington State. I knew that Grandpa Tisdale had been a teacher in Naselle, Ilwaco and Humptullips, so I headed to Ilwaco and stayed in a motel there and took day/scouting trips from there. It's a tiny fishing village with two beautiful lighthouses near Long Beach, Washington, home to the largest international kite festival. I was poking around in a local pharmacy store, purchasing souvenirs from my trip and headed back out to the car.

There it was: "HELBO THE TAILOR" in large letters above the coffee shop across the street! I was jarred by the recognition and stood there amazed for a minute. When I realized what I was seeing I headed back to the little museum which had no information on Fred Tisdale. The nice ladies there did find some information on Helbo the Tailor and later sent me his obituary and a 1916 advertisement from the local paper. I learned that he immigrated to the United States from Finland, along with many other residents in that corner of Washington State, thus the unusual first name of Helbo. It was kind of fun to get this information to document my quilt.

Helbo is not the most attractive quilt I have ever seen. As I mentioned he is a little smelly and he is a bit moth eaten too. But, I think he has held up pretty well for someone who has been around since about 1915! My Mom had him dry cleaned a few years back and brought him to California for his new home. We don't use him as a blanket...he's not so comfortable...but maybe one day I will have a home large enough to display him in some fashion.

I have enjoyed reading about other people's treasures in their homes, on their blogs and so I have decided that I too will begin to document some of my treasures and their history.


Denise said...

My family has a quilt exactly like that! And I have always loved it - despite the smell. I haven't seen it in years and it could be truly missing .... but it still might be buried at my Mom's house. Some day, I have to get over there and do a little sneaking around.

Molly said...

What an interesting history. Thanks for sharing, Molly