Quilting

by

Diane Olson

Senior High Division

 

The tradition of quilting came from the east a long timeago. No one knows exactly where or when it originated. Maybe a prehistoricwoman invented a quilt to keep her safe from the bitter cold of the GobiDesert. Maybe ancient Chinese first quilted their robes to make them morebeautiful. But, however quilting was brought to this area, it has playeda part in the lives of the people of the valley.

Quilting in the valley was born of necessity. The settlershad to make their own protection from the ruthless cold. Women used anyleft-over materials. They made two layers of cloth and put cotton or woolor even straw between these layers. The combination of the three were stretchedtaut on a quilting frame. Then began the actual quilting. The name quiltcame from the method of fastening the three layers; the lining, the interlining,and the quilt top together.

Many different materials were used for quilts. Mrs. BessieCameron, who lived in Hallock, MN before she passed away, used feed sacksand pajama pieces many times. Some women took squares of material from outdatedcatalogs, advertising men's suits. Neckties were even used. Lois Gatheridgeof Hallock, MN (Mrs. Cameron's daughter) remembers her mother making a wholequilt of old neckties. Worn out shirts and other old clothes were a favoritesource of material, for years later, sons and daughters could point outclothes of their childhood days on a quilt made by their mother. Grocerystring and chalk were used in the designing part of the quilting process.

The quilting frame was also important. Bessie Cameron'sframe consisted of four boards about ten feet long, nailed together to forma square that was set on four chairs during the quilting. She tacked denimto the edges so the quilt could be pinned to the frame. Quilting was sucha big part of Bessie's household that the quilting frame stayed up fromNew Year's until spring. The frame always seemed to have a quilt on it,ready for work.

For fancy embroidery quilts, hooped frames are used today.Many different models are available now, but in earlier days, there wasnone but the simplest, homemade frames.

There are three kinds of quilting. The first, piecing,is the most common. In piecing a quilt, small pieces of material are sewntogether to make a block. These are quilted down to the lining and interlining.The second method, appliqueing, involved overlaying different colored piecesof material on a solid background. The last is embroidery, which is lesscommon and most time consuming.

Since social life was very limited in pioneer days, thequilting bee was established. At the quilting bee, women could work at somethinguseful and pass gossip at the same time. These quilting bees were no smallevent. Men, women and children came. While the women quilted, the men playedcards, told jokes and got their share of gossip too. The children lovedthe quilting bees, for it was a time when they, also, could get togetherand try out new games. This was a time when the women of the home couldshow off her culinary skills. There was a big meal at noon and an even biggerone at night.

The most difficult patterns were the ones the women lovedthe most. When they got together, anytime, they exchanged patterns, talkedover different designs, sighed over lovely pieces of material and dreamedwildly about new combinations.

There are hundreds and hundreds of quilt patterns. "Aroundthe World" was a popular pattern. It began as a small rectangle ofsmall squares in the center, developing into larger rectangles, each a differentcolor.

The crazy patch quilt was probably the most popular. Thename explains this type of quilt. Different designs of different materialsare cut out and sewn together to make a crazy and very interesting quilt.This poem was found on the back of a very old quilt:

Scraps that are sombre and scraps that are gay

All put together in a fantastic way

Colors in contrast and shapes that are queer

Silk, satin, velvet, and plush are all here

Demented Fancy in gorgeous array

Rivals the rainbow in brilliant display

Such as the quilts we call "crazy" today. (1)

 

Quilts were given as wedding gifts many times. Three patternsused as wedding or anniversary gifts were The Double Wedding Ring, The IndianWedding Ring, and The Golden Wedding Ring. Many times a quilt would be madefor a new bride by all of her friends. Each woman would make a block andembroider some aspect of the bride's life into it. This would always bea valuable keepsake for the bride.

Album quilts were common everywhere. They were usuallymade for a minister's wife. Each woman would make her block and embroiderher own name in the center. Then a big quilting bee would be held, usuallyat the minister's home. This quilting bee would be mainly like the othersexcept that the conversation turned a bit more religious.

Similar to the album quilts are friendship and family quilts.In a friendship quilt, the friends of the person receiving the quilt eachembroidered their name in a white block and pieced them together. A familyquilt had names of all the family members.

A different kind of quilt is made by making little yo-yosof material. A circle of material is filled with cotton and fastened tothe background. The whole quilt is filled with these balls called yo-yos.Harriet Short of St. Vincent, MN remembers her mother making a couple ofthese yo-yo quilts.

Quilts were and still are, a novelty. Andy Sylling, wholives in Spring Grove, MN had an elephant made by his grandmother when hewas a boy. About twenty years later, his grandmother made an identical quiltfor his daughter.

Mrs. Ann Nordine, of Lancaster, MN has made many quilts.Her favorite is the Texas Star. She's made one of these quilts for eachof her children and also for her pastor's family. Although she didn't startto quilt until her mother-in-law did, she's made between fifty and sixtyquilts, many for Christmas and wedding gifts. According to Mrs. Nordine,quilting is a "hobby and a very enjoyable hobby." (2)

All the work a woman put into one quilt is almost painfulto think about nowadays. But it is the time, the preciseness, the designand the thousands of stitches that make a quilt so elaborate. The art ofquilting isn't completely gone in the valley. Women are beginning to quiltagain and revive the old tradition for they are realizing that a handmadequilt is a priceless treasure.

(1) Krevitsky, Nik, Stitchery - Art and Craft Detail, backof crazy quilt American 1890, Courtesy of Mrs. D. B. Wesson and RosequistGalleries, Tucson.

(2) Mrs. Ann Nordine, Lancaster, MN, Interview, February2, 1975

Bibliography

Gatheridge, Mrs. Carl, Interview, January 25, 1975

Glubok, Shirley, Home and Child Life in Colonial Days,The Macmillan Co., Toronto, Ontario 1969

Hall, Carrie A. and Rose G. Kretsinger, The Romance ofthe Patchwork Quilt in America, Caxton Printers, Ltd. Caldwell, Ohio 1935

Krevitsky, Nik, Stitchery - Art and Craft, Art Horizon,Inc. New York, New York 1966

Lane, Rose Wilder, "The Story of American NeedleworkNo. 8: Quilting" Woman's Day, January 1962

Nordine, Mrs. Ann, Interview, February 2, 1975

Short, Mrs. Gordon, Interview, January 28, 1975

"The Delight of Quilting" The Workbasket andHome Arts Magazine, September 1969

"Quilt What You Like" The Workbasket and HomeArts Magazine, September, 1972ndHome Arts Magazine, September 1969

"Quilt What You Like" The Workbasket and HomeArts Magazine, September, 1972