Pioneer Potluck: About reminiscing… Grandma Cogswell, quilting, cooking, and candy making

Growing up on a farm

Northern colorado 1937-1955

I owe my interest in cooking and sewing clothes to my Mom. I owe my interest in baking bread, crocheting and quilting to my Grandma Cogswell. She was so patient with me when I was little trying to get my two left hands to hold the needle. Embroidery was a little hard to learn. She allowed me to help her and her sisters, my great aunts, to quilt with them along with my Mom and my Aunt Ruth.

At Thanksgiving, after a wonderful roasted turkey (Grandpa raised, killed and plucked) dinner and her Waldorf salad, (apples from their apple cherry orchard) homemade dinner rolls, fluffy mashed potatoes (not instant) and pies with lard in the flakey crust, we would all help her lower the unfinished quilt in the frame down from the ceiling, held by clothes line rope and little pulleys. But… this was after we all pitched in with her very white embroidered tea towels (she ironed hers) to dry the dishes, rinsed in the boiling water. After all the dinnerware was put away, we all gathered around the quilting frame.

Everyone got a needle, (this is where I learned to thread the needle) and we sat around the quilt frame making tiny stitches on her quilt that was sewn from chicken-turkey feed and flour sacks. She usually made crazy quilts, using the scarps the were left over from making aprons, my dresses and pajamas, boys’ shirts, tea towels and underwear. The colorful cotton printed feed sacks contained corn and grain for the turkeys and chickens Grandpa raised in his big chicken coop. The flour sacks were the same quality of printed cotton material. I had my own little side of the quilt and my grandma would help guide my needle into place. She was so patient! I still do not take the tiny stitches that she took.The rest of the little kids played underneath the quilt like it was a tent.

This is also where I learned how to listen to all my aunts and cousins chatter about juicy tidbits of gossip. Now that was more fun that quilting!

Quilting done – time for pie and hand whipped cream. The men folks would play “pitch” a kind of card game, at the big round oak table in the living room. The older boys went out doors to do what ever big boys do! Men were served pie first. I do know dad wanted apple and cherry on his plate and pilled high with wonderful whipped sweet cream. The big boys were called in after the “women folk” got a piece of pie. I can still smell the coffee to go with the pie, perking on the kerosene stove.

The years Grandma did not have a quilt in the frame we spent the afternoon making divinity (my moms’ favorite candy.) Fudge was made the old fashion way-hoping it would not turn to “sugar.” I do remember them tackling taffy on one occasion – and I do remember they all said they would never do it again. All the candy was put away in Grandmas tin candy containers, after each one of us got “a piece of candy.” It was saved until Christmas time.

Grandma allowed me, when I was about 10 or 12, to put pin curls in her thick, long pretty hair. After it dried I would comb and comb it. Oh my she was a patient Grandma!

Later years, when I lived in Poudre Canyon with my three little kids, Grandma came to visit and show me how to bake bread, she stayed in our little rental cabin down by the river and highway. I scrubbed and cleaned and made new curtains and washed in the old wringer washing machine that sat outside my door, all the bedding, hanging it out in the warm Colorado sunshine. I made her a nice soft comfortable place to sleep. I went down the next morning to take her a cup of coffee and she was sitting on a chair at the little table – with a gleam and smile on her face. On the other side of the tiny cabin was the nice soft bed, collapsed on the floor.

Seems Grandma crawled into the bed and gave a turn and the slats that held the mattress gave way and fell to the floor. Grandma was trapped in the middle of the bed with the rails of the bed on both sides. She said it took her some time to get up and crawl over the rails. She said it was so hard to get out of bed because she was laughing to hard. We laughed a long time over that!

She did teach me how to bake bread while visiting. I never ever bake bread unless I think of my grandma Cogswell.

And I love to sew quilts because my grandma taught me how to sew on an old treadle machine. I do not hand quilt them though! I learned to “quilt as you go” by Eleanor Burns. Great method of quilting on a regular machine. If I had room I would have a long arm quilting machine!

Times have changed and peoples needs have changed. Blankets and quilts a very available at the big box stores. The loaf of bread in the grocery store is affordable. We have lost the art of taking the time of baking love into a loaf of bread or making a quilt with more love for the next child to get married. I do have many quilter friends.


I hope I am as good a Grandma as my Grandma Cogswell was!!

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