Freebies & Features

Judie Rothermel Pays Tribute to "the Real Aunt Grace"

Judie Rothermel

With the introduction of the new AUNT GRACE collection for Spring 2016, Judie Rothermel pays tribute to "the real Aunt Grace," her beloved aunt, Grace Starkey. Here's the story of how the quilting world's most popular, most imitated, and most enduring line of 1930s reproduction cotton prints came to be, in Judie's own words:

"I wish to give tribute to the lady who helped me so much when I first became interested in quilting. Grace Starkey is actually a great, great aunt of mine, from my father's side of the family. Grace was born in 1890 in the farming community of Waco, OH. In her early twenties, she married Homer Starkey and together they had three children. After the children were grown and married, Grace and Homer moved to North Canton, OH, the city where I happen to live.

Grace Starkey

When I became enthusiastic about quilting, my mother suggested I call Aunt Grace. She invited me to her home, where we shared a warm relationship. Homer had passed away by this time and I knew she enjoyed my visits. I think she was amazed that someone of my age would want to learn to quilt! She taught me to quilt on her frame and shared all of her quilting knowledge -- for this I will be forever grateful. She loved to show me the quilts she had made as a young woman. Unfortunately, I did not inherit any of her quilts. When it was time for her to go into a nursing home, she asked me to take all of her scraps and quilting patterns. I wasn't too excited about them at the time... how things do change!

When I decided to create my 1930s reproduction fabric line, my mother again had a suggestion - she wanted me to name the line after my Aunt Grace. Thanks, Mom, for that wonderful idea! People always ask me if there really was an "Aunt Grace". Well, here she is! It's not the best photograph of her, but I had to share it with you. I obtained it from the local newspaper that had written a story about her quilting life in the 1980s. Aunt Grace kept on quilting in the nursing home (though she told me she was done) and stitched until she passed away in 1992. I am sure she went straight to Quilter's Heaven. Unfortunately, she never knew about the Aunt Grace fabrics I created in her honor."

--- Judie