School groups from around the area come in on Friday to have some hands-on learning about pioneer history.
Lilac Lane Patterns had me as a guest blogger today about my quilts. (Here’s the story below, but go to their website to see all the photos of the quilts I talk about.)
Today I’ll show you some of my great grandmother, Kizzie Pieratt’s quilts, and next Friday I’ll show you some of my grandmother, Irene Pieratt Akers’ quilts.
Kizzie raised eight children, was the main farmer in the family, and quilted other people’s quilt tops for additional income. Most of the quilts I have of hers were made to be functional, and used on our own family’s beds when I was growing up in the 1950s.
And please check back to this blog site next week to see even more antique quilts on my bed.
I remember the thrill of seeing the final cover design of my first book, Butter in the Well back in 1992. Back then it was sketched out by hand, and it was a long process of ideas and time, because it was being mailed back and forth between me and the publisher.
(Recently the cover designer found me on Facebook and told me the background design for this cover was actually her kitchen wall paper.)
My publisher, Butterfield Books Inc. decided to update the covers of all my books this year for the 20th anniversary of my first book.
Boy, has time and the internet changed on how you do book covers and work with a designer.
I emailed jpegs of possible pictures to use in the first cover. Ideas flew back and forth in seconds by email. The feel wasn’t right so the designer would send something else.
Finally she went to her mom’s house and looked through the stash of quilting fabric her mother used to make quilts.
What she found worked perfect for the background of the Butter in the Well book cover, along with the 1881 photo I had of the original house.
The old and new- from different centuries- made the perfect cover…
I just read an article about the 160th anniversary of the Singer sewing machines. Sewing machines had been around for a while, but in 1852 Isaac Merritt Singer adapted an existing machine with changes that made it practical for home use.
Mr. Singer’s new sewing machine design was unveiled at the 1855 World’s Fair in Paris. Singer also introduced installment payments for his $99 sewing machine so it was affordable for homemakers around the world.
It made me think of the sewing machines I’ve used in the past, and those that my ancestors used.
I learned how to sew on a 1940s model black Singer sewing machine. When my parents were first married, Dad brought a newborn sick calf into their farmhouse and told Mom if it lived, Mom could have the money from its eventual sale to buy whatever she wanted. She nursed the calf back to health and bought a new sewing machine.
A few decades later Mom upgraded to a Singer Model 337. It was fun to do all kinds of “fancy” stitching on pillowcases and tea towels. We made almost all of our clothes on this machine through my school years.
Currently I still use a Singer Graduate Model 714 I bought when our high school sold their sewing machines to buy new ones for the Home Ec. classroom. I googled it on the internet and here it pops up as a “Vintage Sewing Machine” on Ebay—reminding me it was about 35 years ago when I got it.
Even though it is now considered old—it still works fine—so I’m happy with it!
I’ve been going through old photos recently and sorting them (and my memories) by the decades they were taken. It’s interesting to see the old “Butter in the Well” house in the background. They were all snapshots of everyday life at that moment, and now so many memories later…
Then I think of photos I’ve been given of the first family that lived on the same farm, and see the same backgrounds. (The first photo is of Mabel and Julia Runneberg standing in front of the house in the early1900s, and the second photo is me, by the same gate on my first day of school in 1960.)
It makes me wonder, who used which bedroom, where did their kitchen table sit, how many times was the quilt stand set up in the parlor?
“Aunt” Julia grew up in the same house that I did. She was born in 1884, and I, seventy years later. Although she wasn’t a relative of mine, we called her Aunt Julia because she was almost everyone’s aunt in our farming neighborhood. She married the boy next door and lived her next sixty years a quarter of a mile from her childhood home. Aunt Julia was like a grandmother to me, and my occasional babysitter.
She was bedridden in her last year of life at home. It was hard for me to visit her because it made me so sad to see her waste away.
One time I didn’t go over with my mom to see her, and Aunt Julia sent home some quilts for me to have. Of course, now I wish I could have gotten the quilts—and the stories behind the them—direct from Aunt Julia, but at age seventeen I didn’t think of that.
I can just imagine Julia, as a teenager in the 1890s, stitching this crazy quilt together in the parlor, the same room that we used for our sewing projects.
And I can see this quilt being carried out in 1911 when Julia married—and back in 1971 when I received it—through the same gate in front of the house we both used…
Isn’t it funny how we used “old bedding” when we were growing up, and now realize how valuable these antique quilts are due to the work and love put into each of them?
This fall I moved my parents from the farm they had called home for 65 years to a smaller home in town.
Because my parents didn’t have room for two trunks of quilts, I was lucky to inherit them. Inside these wooden chests were the handmade quilts, made by my great grandmother and grandmother, which we had used on our own beds when I was young.
My childhood years in the 1960s were spent in a wood frame house built back in 1870. This house was featured in my Butter in the Well book series. The only heat for my upstairs bedroom came from a floor vent, which let a little warmth drift up from the room below. Therefore, during the winter months, there were “blanket sheets” on my bed, plus three or four quilts on top.
Then I grew up, left home, and started using the light modern blankets on my bed.
Looking through the inherited quilts again brought back many memories. Not only of the quilts, but other flashes—like tucking my feet up inside the flowered flannel nightgown I wore to bed, pink sponge curlers, and having only my nose sticking out from under the pile of bedding.
Now I think of how I treated those quilts that we had used for everyday bedding, and am amazed that they survived.
I marvel at the thousands of tiny handmade stitches and the variety and colors of the fabric—all scraps from past clothing of my ancestors.
How many hours did the quilters spend cutting out the block pieces, and then sewing them together?
Who sat around the quilting frame to quilt them?
What was the conversation those days back in the late 1800s and early 1900s?
Did these women ever consider their handwork would keep their decedents warm after they were gone? Or that I would treasure these quilts and the memories of the quilters a century later?
Just think, whether it was a hundred years ago—or present time—a quilt made by someone’s hand, is keeping another person warm.
How valuable is that? Priceless…
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.”
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!
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!
Finally, 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…