School groups from around the area come in on Friday to have some hands-on learning about pioneer history.
Posts Tagged ‘pioneer quilts’
Today I’m going through old photos that I’ll include in my next book. These are pictures I took in 2002 with my camera, of old portraits that were in my great uncle’s chest of family history. Now—eleven years later— I’m scanning, cropping and figuring out where to put in my book, The Kansas Quilter.
As I sort them by family, and study the photos with a magnifying glass, I’m finding clues to my ancestors’ pasts.
For example here’s a photo of Robert Pieratt, probably taken when he enlisted in 1862. He died on Feb. 19, 1863—at the age of 17.
Here’s how I wrote his death in the letter, Feb. 26, 1863 in Stitch of Courage.
“Robert died at Fort Scott on February 19. He had the measles, then succumbed to pneumonia. We barely knew he was sick until Mr. Pieratt got word that he was dead and buried. I curse this war! If it hadn’t been for the Secession, Robert would have been home, alive and well. I can’t stand to think what conditions Robert lived in and must have died in without his family around him in his last hours. In my mind I picture him lying in a spindly cot without enough blankets, no one to bathe his fevered brow, all alone. Did he still have my quilt with him? Did he lose it, or wasn’t it thick enough to keep him warm and safe? Questions keep haunting me, along with his friendly face. I saw it only two months ago!”
(Excerpt from Stitch of Courage © Linda K. Hubalek)
Now look at the photo again and think how bittersweet it would be to have a picture of your son as he’s ready to go to war, and then to hear you’ll never see him again.
And then there’s more in this letter in Stitch of Courage, and you realize…
“The word of Robert’s passing came after his stepmother, Nancy, died of bronchitis on the 20th. She hadn’t been well for the last month but turned worse quickly at the end. The Pieratt children have lost two mothers. I feel their pain as I relive my own loss. Life can be so hard on children. “
The father, John Pieratt (from Trail of Thread) lost a son on the 19th and his wife on the 20th.
These are the emotions I try to portray for my books, because they were real—especially when you find an old photo like this one and know the story behind it…
The year 2012 went by fast for me as my husband and I built our own house, plus me taking care of my aging parents. Both “jobs” were filled with work, trauma, and joy. But, these were important things that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss.
Now I’m starting the new year by moving into my new home office and planning my dad’s 90th birthday open house on Jan. 20th.
I’m enjoying a sunny winter snow scene from my office window and getting back in gear…and still wondering what I did with… where I put… certain files… that envelope of research photos, etc.
I wasn’t able to concentrate on my writing as I would have liked to last year, but now I’m working on my next book.
I have enough research done to start writing the story of my great grandmother, Kizzie Pieratt who was a spunky pioneer, and an avid quilter.
It’s going to be fun to write her story. Please keep tuned in to see how the new book progresses.
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…
We had a warm sunny day this week, so I pulled out a tub of quilts I inherited from Lois, my mother-in-law. They had been stored in a cedar chest, made as a high school project by her future husband back in about 1925.
I spread a white tablecloth on the driveway and unfolded the first quilt. The double wedding band quilt is a beautiful display of color, stitching, and handwork. The intricate machine stitching alone had to take days to do. The quilt is a real work of art, in perfect shape, probably rarely used except as a display on the bed for when company came. It could have been a wedding present.
The second quilt I spread out was almost past the “thread bare” stage, faded from years of use and washings. Scraps of fabric, with no color scheme, just made from what was available. I’m sure it dates back to at least my mother-in-law’s days of growing up in the 1920s- 1930s. Researching the pattern, I’d say it is a Double Quartet quilt block pattern featured in Capper’s Weekly in 1927.
Lois was a very practical, organized woman, and never seemed attached to mementos from the past. She only kept and used what she needed. So now looking at this old worn out quilt, I wonder who made it, and why did she keep it.
I’m guessing the first quilt was kept because it was a gift, and a treasure due to the workmanship. The second quilt though, even plain and worn out, must have had very special memories attached to it.
My writer’s imagination flashes through many scenarios. Was it on Lois’ bed when growing up or on her sister Helen’s bed who died when the girl was a teenager? Made by a grandmother and used by the grandfather that lived with her family. Or, was it just an old quilt used as a picnic blanket in their first car?
I’ll never know the history of these quilts since the previous owner is now gone. I’m just guessing they were kept for some special reason besides for display and warmth.
Maybe I’ll honor these quilts with new “memories” in one of my future books like I did in the Trail of Thread series …
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!
Need to finish your Christmas shopping? Or maybe start your shopping?
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!
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?
I must admit…
I love hearing from people that have read my books, and how the real pioneer women portrayed in my historical fiction series have touched their lives.
My Trail of Thread series also brought quilters into my reading circle, inspiring them to use the quilt blocks featured in the back of the books for block-of-the-month, quilting clubs, and personal quilt projects.
This month a special reader found me through the internet, wanting to show me a quilt she made featuring quilt blocks from the Trail of Thread series. Margie’s mother gave her my book Thimble of Soil because Margaret Ralston Kennedy, the main character in this book, was actually her own great, great, great grandmother.
Margie picked out twenty patterns, made the blocks using material that looked old-fashioned and hand-stitched the quilt featured with this blog. She embroidered the quilt pattern underneath each design, and a signature plate on the back.
What a great way to commemorate her ancestor, and to have a quilt she has handmade to pass down to her own descendants.
So please email me a note if you have enjoyed reading my books. It keeps me writing, knowing I have touched your hearts with stories and memories about special pioneering women.
Many thanks from the Kansas prairie, Margie…where both of our ancestors lived!
One of my passions is flowers, especially the prairie flowers that grow on their own in pastures, just blooming for themselves. My college degree was in horticulture and I spent many years in the flower and plant research industry before “returning to the prairie” myself with my living and writing.
Wild flowers have grown across the Kansas prairie and the Great Plains of North America since the start of time. Dots of color from the prairie plants wave with the green sea of grass during spring and summer. Their seed pods turn color in the fall and disperse their seeds to start another cycle of colorful and useful flowers.
Pioneer women used the prairie flowers as an inspiration for their quilt patterns, and I’ve mentioned them in my historical fiction writing.
Here’s a quote from my Trail of Thread book:
“Ann has quilts tops and quilts of her own along. It’s customary to make a baker’s dozen of quilt tops for a young woman’s dower chest. When the wedding is about to take place, the neighborhood women get together and help finish them. Ann has gone ahead and quilted three of them since she’s nearing the spinster age, but she saved her appliqued Rose of Sharon top for her wedding bed, just in case she’s proposed to yet.”
Think of the ideas and color schemes the pioneer women would have seen as they walked along the trails. And, they would have varied from state to state and the time of year. I think it would help the walk to concentrate on the beauty of nature and how it could be used in a future quilt.