McGriff’s prized quilts decorate homes

Published 9:21 pm Friday, November 19, 2010

Martha McGriff's handmade quilts decorate nearly every room of her home.

If you’re looking for a unique quilt, Martha McGriff has got you covered.

McGriff, 89, of the south Chilton County community of Verbena, has spent numerous painstaking hours crafting handmade quilts and other fabric creations that cover walls and furniture throughout her home — and no two are alike.

“That one will never be made again,” she said, pointing to a quilt made from different handkerchiefs stitched together, “because you rarely find two (handkerchiefs) alike.”

McGriff comes up with her own designs — hearts, flowers, stars, butterflies, you name it — and her originality has not gone unnoticed. A blue ribbon accompanies a piece on her dining room wall (she has entered four competitions and won all four).

“That’s what you call a crazy quilt. There’s no pattern to it; you just pick up pieces,” she said.

McGriff has sewn all her life, making her own clothes and her daughter’s clothes by hand. Although her mother and grandmother did not teach her to sew, they inspired her as she watched them work.

McGriff, the wife of the late O.J. McGriff of Verbena, is shown with one of her quilts.

At age 15, she started making dresses, and this hobby continued for many years. McGriff made the dress worn by her granddaughter, Monica, who was named First Alternate in the first ever Junior Miss Peach Pageant in 1983. She made three dresses for her grandson’s wedding and was even asked to stand up to be recognized for her efforts.

McGriff says it takes about four months to make an embroidered dress and as long as a full year to make a quilt. Much of this time is attributed to the small details she puts in her designs.

“If you quilted like everybody else, it wouldn’t take long,” she said.

At 89, McGriff spends her days in the garden and can easily stoop down to pick up something, so it’s no surprise that it’s hard to slow her down. Quilting is one of the few things that does.

“It brings you down. I’m hyper, and you really have to come down to do those stitches,” she said. “Life would be pretty dull to just sit and do nothing. You’ve got to have hobbies.”

McGriff appreciates the beauty of a stitch so much that she uses some of her quilts inside out. She says they are just as pretty on the back as they are on the front, if not prettier.

McGriff is also quite a collector of fabric, thread, and popular prints such as Holly Hobby (her daughter happens to be named Holly).

She also has her favorite colors and fabrics, and she seems to prefer dark colors.

“I think they show up better. It seems like they’re more soothing,” she said.

But you won’t find much darkness in her upbeat attitude and outlook on life.

“I just don’t like sadness. I don’t care about it,” McGriff said.