Orphaned Quilt Blocks find a new Home

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, quilts and quilting

Orphaned quilt block made by Irene Akers

Orphaned quilt block made by Irene Akers

I found three quilt blocks, tucked in different drawers in different dressers, when sorting for my parent’s move from the farm into town recently. I wondered when these orphaned blocks were sewn, and why they were not incorporated into a quilt.

I handed the first one to Mom, which she promptly flipped over.

“It’s hand stitched, by my mother because I recognize many of her dresses in fabric pieces.”

“Any feed sack material,” I ask?

She rubs a couple of materials between her finger and thumb. “No, all the material is from dresses.”

Orphaned quilt blocks made by Ione Johnson

Orphaned quilt blocks made by Ione Johnson

The next two blocks match in pattern, but one is blue and white, the other peach and white. Mom didn’t bother flipping them over and laughed, “I made these blocks while in grade school and never finished it”.

Yes, she spent time around the quilting frame with her mother, grandmothers, and neighbors when visiting them, but she never made a whole quilt by herself.

I now know the answer with my mother’s abandoned quilt blocks, but not my grandmother’s. But that’s okay because even if these patches of sewed together fabric never became part of a quilt, they still have a memory to pass on from one quilter to another.

Mom inherited several trunkful’s of quilts from her grandmother Kizzie Pieratt, so I guess she just didn’t need to make her own. Moreover, with WWII, family priorities and types of bedding changing, maybe young wives didn’t quilt as much in the 1940s.

Now these quilts and memories of Great Grandma Kizzie are mine to savor and share.

Is this a talent that is learned, or passed down? I guess it depends on the family. The love (and necessity) of quilts and quilting done by her mother, and especially her grandmother Kizzie did not pass on to my mother, but they did skip a generation down to me.

Because it’s the beginning of the New Year, I’m thinking about projects to start—and to finish—in 2012. Where can I put my talents to the best use, to get the most out of my time, and make something lasting that can be enjoyed by me, and others, now and in the future?

What talent and legacy are you passing on in 2012? Please let me know —and share it with your family so they know the story too!

Pick a Trail of Thread for your Christmas Gift

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in about Trail of Thread book series, Blog

Need to finish your Christmas shopping? Or maybe start your shopping?

Trail of Thread (Trail of Thread Series)I heard from one reader that bought a Kindle as a gift, and was downloading books for the recipient to read right away. She had downloaded my TRAIL OF THREAD series and read them before she wrapped the Kindle in Christmas paper! Smart gal!

Remember you can “gift” an ebook to someone by just hitting the “give as a gift” button on the right side of the screen when ordering through Amazon.com. The receiver will get an email notifying them that they have a book to download onto their Kindle.

I like to read paperbacks, but ebooks are very popular so I give both as gifts.

Here’s my pioneer series that has a quilting theme to it for your quilting friends (or yourself if you get a Kindle or Nook for Christmas).

The TRAIL OF THREAD series, written in the form of letters the women have written back home to loved ones, show the thoughts, and process them went through to provide a better life not only their families, but also the state and nation during the troubling times of the Civil War.

In the first book, TRAIL OF THREAD, Deborah and John Pieratt left Kentucky in 1854 when the Territory of Kansas opened to homesteaders. They were part of the thousands of families that packed wagons and headed west for the promise of a new life. This progression leads them to own land for their family of six young children.

THIMBLE OF SOIL, the second book in the series, features Margaret Ralston Kennedy. She was a widow who moved with eight of her thirteen children from Ohio to the Territory Kansas in 1855. She was dedicated to the cause of the North, and helped with the Underground Railroad in both Ohio and Kansas. Margaret’s progression of moving fleeing slaves gave them a change for a safe free life.

Orphaned Maggie Kennedy (my great-great grandmother), portrayed in STITCH OF COURAGE, the last book in the series, traveled to Kansas looking for her brothers as the states fought out the history of the Civil War. While this might seem as a step backwards due to the times, it leads her to marriage and a family of her own.

Sound like a book series someone you know would like? Maybe this idea will finish your holiday shopping!

A Great Story is a Great Gift

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog

I got an email from another author with this headline today and I thought—this statement is so true.

The author was promoting his books for the Christmas season, and it was a good opening line.

I like the statement because the stories written in my books are gifts of insight to me—and the descendants of every pioneer that homesteaded out in the middle of nowhere.

But, the line can imply other things too.

A great story will share the history from one generation to the next. That’s a gift of heritage and pride in one’s family.

A great story may calm a child—or an adult— in a crisis. That’s a gift by preventing further trauma and frightful memories.

A great story can be seen and felt through a keepsake quilt, or through the lines of a poem, giving the gift of a visual memory.

A great story saved in one’s heart can be remembered forever—even if it was just baking Christmas cookies decades ago

This list can go on and on.

I hope today you get—or give—a great story to remember the day, or a special person by.

What’s your greatest story that was a gift to you?

The Pioneer’s Cyber Monday Sales

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series

While we’re ordering our holiday gifts online today because of Cyber Monday sales, I can’t help but think of the contrast of now, versus 150 years ago, when Kansas was being homesteaded by pioneers of several different nationalities.

Butter in the Well, historical fiction book by Linda K. HubalekThink how simple and thankful the pioneers were for their holidays and gift giving. When you read the diary entries from Butter in the Well, you’ll see what I mean…

“November 26, 1868

 We celebrated the American holiday called Thanksgiving with the Robinsons today. We were thankful to be asked to their home. They live in a dugout too, but have two rooms and real furniture. Benjamin had shot a turkey down near their bend of the river. He said that turkey is the traditional meat for the Thanksgiving meal back East. But Adelaide also fixed venison, potatoes, creamed hominy corn, pickled beets, fresh wheat bread (I had two thick slices) and dried currant pie. Since she has a cow, we also enjoyed fresh butter and cheese. Adelaide sent home a wedge of cheese and a loaf of bread. She is so thoughtful.

December 9, 1868

Since Carl is spending most of his time inside now that it is cold, he has been carving. He has made some wooden spoons and small bowls for me, and tool handles for himself. He carved a doll’s head and I added a little body for it out of one of Christina’s first dresses. It will be her Christmas present.

Carl bought a two-lidded stove in Salina this month to heat the dugout and so I could do some of my cooking inside. It is a very small second-hand stove, but better than cooking everything outside.

Since the days are shorter and sometimes overcast, we need more light in the dugout. Rather than use up the supply of candles, we are burning a plate of tallow, using a piece of twisted cloth as the wick, or burning the tail feathers of ducks geese. I don’t care for the smell of singed feathers, but I have to use what we’ve got.”

(Excerpts from Butter in the Well, © by Linda K. Hubalek)

Gifts were given and received, be it food or a hand-carved item, with thought and love back then. And, actually we’re still doing the same things now, only with a different means of obtaining them.

Have fun today as you think of Christmas gifts to give to others. Will you hand make some items this year, or order them online?

P.S. If you’d like to read more about these Kansas pioneers, or would like to give them as a holiday gifts, the Kindle and Nook ebooks are on sale this month as Butterfield Books Inc.’s Cyber Monday special. Or, you can buy autographed books on my website, where you always get free shipping. Happy Shopping and Giving!

Our Family’s Thanksgiving Table

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog

As we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, my mind wanders back to the simple Thanksgiving days of my youth—50+years ago—when my mom, grandma, or aunts hosted the noon meal. Each year we rotated to whose house we would go to, and each holds special memories.

Various tables were pushed together so we could all sit and pass the multiple platters and bowls of steaming food in a continuous circle.

We enjoyed the traditional foods of turkey, dressing and mashed potatoes—with a few Swedish dishes mixed in. (On Aunt Maydean’s turn we got the bonus of her homemade root beer.)

After the meal we’d have to dry all the pots, pans, dishes, and silverware used that day with a tea towel that kept getting soggier by each piece. That was part of the tradition too.

Now decades have gone by, changing who sits at our family Thanksgiving table. Our generation of cousins married, adding spouses and new children to the table, or left to join a new family’s table. Others left—but not by choice—due to age or disease.

Tomorrow as I’m eating white turkey meat dipped in cranberry sauce, I’ll be thinking of Thanksgiving pasts and who is missing from our table this year.

It’s just part of Thanksgiving to be grateful for food and family, both present and past.

And I’m really grateful for those memories…

Flooding Memories

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series

(This month I’m posting excerpts from my books and telling you the story behind them.)

I remember several floods while growing up on the farm I featured in my Butter in the Well book series.

The creek runs through the middle of the farm, with the river on the west border. Most times the creek is dry, but it can flood quickly as Kajsa found out there first night on their new land.

“March 31, 1868

…Tonight and for quite a while we will sleep in the wagon and cook on the campfire. We stacked the lumber beside the wagon, so we have more room in the wagon bed. Carl may sleep on the ground, but Christina needs to be protected from the damp ground and the creatures that I’m sure will check us out tonight.

Thank goodness Christina has stayed healthy. Many children died on the long trip to America and were buried at sea. It broke my heart to hear about parents burying their babies along the wagon trails going west. The families had to move on, knowing they would never visit the grave. One woman told me she hoped her little one would be left in peace and not dug up by a wolf looking for food, or an Indian looking for clothing.

My thoughts have been interrupted several times by the dark clouds building up above the bluffs to the west. We experienced a few thunderstorms in Illinois and Christina was terrified. I was pretty uneasy myself. We were in a house then, not out in the wide open, lost in a sea of waving grass…

April 1, 1868

It poured all last night, maybe a slight pause, and then more buckets of rain. Carl and I were soaking wet, trying to keep Christina and our supplies halfway dry. Our poor animals were tied to the wagon, having no choice but to be miserable where they stood. In the dawn light we saw we were surrounded by water. The creek had flooded its banks and was rising around us. Our stack of boards was floating away so Carl and I had to jump from the wagon and splash around in the muddy waters, shoving the lumber back into the wagon. We had to move farther up our land to the northeast to escape the floodwater. The creek I was so happy about had become a life-threatening curse. It is evening now and the water is receding. We now know that the land will be our master and not the other way around.”

(Excerpt from Butter in the Well, © by Linda K. Hubalek)

The creek has flooded the farm on occasion for over 140 years. Sometimes it’s been a decade between floods, or a week depending on the year.

You can hear the floodwater coming up the “alley” between the corrals before you see it. It has seeped into the barn and granary, ruining things sitting on the floor of the buildings if they weren’t moved out in time. I remember tying the horses and 4-H calves up to the fence east of the house to be out of harm’s way when I was in grade school.

The house is on higher land but the cellar has been flooded a few times. I don’t know if their first home, a dugout was ever threatened.

Can you imagine Kajsa’s worry as the waters crept up towards their farm? It would have been the same as my parent’s worry decades later… with the same creek and the same buildings.

The Story behind the Immigrant's Journey

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series

Julia and Kajsa  Runneberg, 1886. From book, Butter in the Well by Linda K. Hubalek.

Julia and Kajsa Runneberg, 1886.

When researching the history of our family farm for my book, Butter in the Well, I found stories written down by Julia Olson that her mother—Kajsa Runneberg—had told her about their homesteading days. Julia was our neighbor to the north, and was like a grandmother to me. She was born in 1884 and grew up on same farm as I did, decades later. Julia moved to the next homestead when she married the neighbor boy Joe in 1911, and died when I was in high school in the early 1970s. (Julia gave me two old quilts that I’ll guess were made in the house we both grew up in.)

Here’s the story of Julia’s mother’s journey to Kansas, that I wrote in a diary form, as if in Kajsa’s own words.

March 7, 1868

Ellsworth, Kansas — I want to keep a journal of our adventure into the American Plains so I will have an account of what our first years were like.

In spring of ’67 we traveled from Klevmarken, Sweden, to New York City, America, by ship, then by train to Jacksonville, Illinois. Now a year later, we’re back on a train heading for the open prairies of Kansas.

We traveled from Jacksonville to St. Louis first. In Illinois we saw meadows of grass, wooded areas and towns. The scenery was much the same until we got past Kansas City. Then there were very few trees and the prairie grass stretched as far as the eye could see. The few towns we’ve gone through were very small and new. The farther west, the sparser it has gotten. I’ve heard Kansas called “the Great American Desert,” but everything looks green. Of course it’s spring now. Maybe the whole countryside dries up in the summer.

We were to get off at the town of Salina, in Saline County. Our friends in Jacksonville put destination tags on us and our belongings since we don’t know much of the American language yet. Most people in Jacksonville were Swedish, so got along fine. Carl knows a few American words, since he had to work and did the shopping when we lived there.

The ride has been wearing on us. This morning Carl looked like he didn’t feel good. The motion of the train car bouncing on the track and smoke from the engine’s smokestack has made us all a little sick.

I was trying to watch the railroad station signs at each stop, but they were not always in sight. Each time Carl tried to find the conductor, to see if that was the place we were to get off. Instead of trying to ask, it was easier to point to his name tag.

At the last stop Carl rushed up to me and said: “Gather up our things and Christina! We’ve got to get off. This is Ellsworth. We missed Salina!”

I panicked when I realized we missed our stop. But, I knew Carl would figure out a way to get us back on the track to our destination. We have found overnight lodging and we will travel back to Salina tomorrow.

This was an extra expense we didn’t need.  

 March 30, 1868

Carl came down with the fever and chills of ague that night here in Ellsworth. Thank the Lord he is finally getting over it. It could have been worse. I could have become a widow with a 15-month-old baby in a strange American town.

We’ve been at the Railroad Hotel for over three weeks. I’ve had to help the cook prepare and serve the meals in exchange for room and board for our small family. We were to find a innkeeper so kind.

Tomorrow we’ll get back on the train heading for Salina. This time we will get off at the right town.”  (Excerpt from Butter in the Well © by Linda K. Hubalek)

I find these stories fascinating, although Kajsa must have been in a real panic when it happened. We’re so connected with cell phone these days and can get help almost immediately. But think how the early immigrants in the 1800s had to rely on themselves or the help of strangers.

If you see someone that could use some help today, think of Kajsa, and reach out a hand. No matter what century, everyone appreciates help…

What quilt pattern would you use?

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, quilts and quilting

Here’s the first paragraph in my book Butter in the Well that sets the scene for the story.

“Go back to a time when there are no streets, roads, or cars. Imagine there are no buildings, homes, hospitals, or grocery stores around the corner. All of your family’s belongings fit in a small wooden wagon. The year is 1868. There is nothing but tall, green waving grass as far as the eye can see. The scent of warm spring air after a morning rain surrounds you. Spring blows gently in your face. The snort of the horse and an occasional meadowlark, whistling its call, are the only sounds. You are alone on the virgin land of the vast prairie.”

Just from reading those first words, can you feel and see what Kajsa, the young pioneer women, is seeing for the first time? Scared, exhilarated, relieved? Can you imagine the excitement of owning land at age 23?

Now….if you were going to make a quilt from this description alone and the feelings it brought out in you, what colors would it feature and what quilt block pattern would you use?

And…would you choose the same now, as you would have when you were 23?

Please share your thoughts with me!

Why I wrote Butter in the Well

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series

Butter in the Well, historical fiction book by Linda K. HubalekTwenty years ago I wrote my first book Butter in the Well. Writing was a new adventure for me, brought on by my husband’s job transfer to another state. I was homesick and started writing about the Swedish woman who left her country and homesteaded on the Kansas prairie that later became my childhood home.

Writing this first book changed my career and, my life. I swerved off this path for a decade while raising buffalo (which could be a book in itself), but I’m back to writing stories about pioneer women again.

Recently I re-read my books to enjoy the stories and photos that brought the characters to life, for both my readers and me.

Please join me as I post special passages from Butter in the Well in my blog to relive the life of a special Swedish immigrant, Kajsa Swenson. I’ll add background tidbits, photos, and website links so you can enjoy “the story behind the story” too.

To get you started, here is the Preface from my book, Butter in the Well. (Copyright 1992 by Linda K. Hubalek)

“This book is about a Swedish emigrant woman who homesteaded Kansas land in 1868. Maja Kajsa Svensson was a young bride of one year when she, her husband, Carl Johan, and 3-month-old daughter, Anna Christina, left Sweden in 1867.

Born to Johan Magnus Andersson and Anna Lisa Mattesdotter on June 15, 1844, in Klevmarken, Sweden, she was the first in her family to marry and the first to move to America.

After receiving an encouraging letter from a friend who had moved and settled in Illinois, the Svenssons set sail for America and settled in Jacksonville, Illinois. Carl worked in his friend’s brickyard but dreamed of farming his own land. The farmland in Illinois had already been bought up, so they needed to look elsewhere. Land agents canvassing Illinois advertised the free land in Kansas, just waiting to be claimed. Although Kajsa would have preferred to stay in Illinois, she accepted Carl’s decision and packed for the trip to Kansas.

This fictionalized account describes Kajsa’s first 20 years on her Kansas farm and how the community developed into the Smoky Valley region of Saline County, Kansas. It is seen through her eyes, as though she were writing in her journal.

I interviewed relatives and neighbors who remember stories of this family and the history of this area. I walked the cemeteries to find the tombstones of Kajsa’s relatives. Some stories, dates, and name spellings have conflicted at times, but I have tried to find the truth by researching church, cemetery, and county records. Old newspapers and books have shed light on the conditions and events that took place in the communities.

The accounts of Kajsa are meant to portray life during the late 1800s in the Smoky Valley of Kansas. Some license has been taken to depict the everyday in the life of a family in this time period.

I have not found pictures of her family prior to 1881, but those of the family and farm in later years reveal much about Kajsa’s life.

Kajsa’s daughter Julia married Peter Olson’s son Joseph, and spent her married life on his family farm directly north of where she was born. “Aunt Julia”, as almost everyone in the neighborhood called her, was like a grandmother to me. I used to take her a May Day basket filled with lilac blooms picked from the bush she helped her mother plant.

But just as important as knowing Kajsa’s family, I know the farm they homesteaded, for I grew up on that very land, roamed its acres and lived in the house that Carl and Kajsa built. Living on the land has given me a depth and feel for the life of the woman portrayed in these pages.

In Kajsa’s photos, she stares me straight in the eye as if challenging me to look into her soul. Kajsa looked like a quiet, determined woman who loved her family and land. Her story ought to be told.”

Want to read more about Kajsa and her life on the Kansas prairie?
Please watch for my next blog…

Morning Glory Quilt Block

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, quilts and quilting

morning glory quilt blockFinally, today, now that September is fading into history, my morning glory vine outside my kitchen window bloomed for the first time this summer. It’s been such a hot summer in Kansas that the vine just didn’t have the strength to bloom. Now that the weather has cooled down it’s covered with buds ready to burst—and my bet is we’ll have an early frost and I won’t get to enjoy its promising potential.

But as one My Quilt Place friend mentioned in an email to me, we can still enjoy flowers year round in our quilts and quilt making.

Another quilter friend completed the quilt featured in the book Prairie Flower: A Year on the Plains by Barbara Brackman. The quilter posted several of the individual flower blocks on her page so I’ll share her “morning glory” block with you.

I hope you’re enjoying the last of the summer flowers as we move into the fall season. Even with the summer flowers fading away, we have the changing fall colors to inspire us for our next quilting project…