Quilts tell stories. Some more than others. As I dig deeper into the lives of the girls and women that created the quilt squares in Athelstan, Iowa in 1934, I feel a greater sense of who these women are – just because of the small tracks through time that they left via these small pieces of fabric embellished muslin.
I discovered this Wonderopolis site that shares ‘How Do Quilts Tell Stories.’
Stop by and take a peek at their thoughts about it.
Bedford Times Press,
August 23, 1934
HONOR GUEST AT SHOWER
Mrs. Fred Fidler Receives Many Gifts from Friends
Mrs. Fred Fidler was honor guest at a miscellaneous shower Saturday at her home.
Those present were Mrs. Eliza Bownes, Mrs. Flora Godsey, Mrs. Nelly Morris and children, Mrs. Georgia Older and granddaughter Jolene Raper, Mrs. Ralph Scott and son Ross, Mrs. Roy Kemery and daughter Norma Jean, Mrs. Nora Barnes, Mrs. Ansel Lyons, Mrs. S.W. Madison, Mrs. Angie Freemyer, Mrs. Eva Burns and children, Mrs. Jenny Rusco, Mrs. Nosh Parker, Verna Jenkins and Mrs. Katherine Barber.
The paper later reports:
F.S. Fidler and family have moved into the J. F. Chapman property since the loss of their home by fire recently.
I was excited to see this a few paragraphs later. Grace Murray has a quilt block in this set, but I have never been able to locate anything on her.
Mrs. Grace Murray is spending a few weeks at the home of Mr. and Mrs. D. D. Fidler, helping care for Mrs. Fidler, who is ill.
Later, in the same article, it mentions:
Mr. and Mrs. Volley Carroll and family spent last week-end at the home of their daughter, Mr. and Mrs. L.H. Schilling in St. Joseph. Their daughter, little Miss Jean Marin, who was visiting her sister, returned home with them. Mrs. Grace Murray and son Forest stayed with Grandma Carroll during their absence.
Another surprise mention stated:
Mr. and Mrs. Roy Kemery and daughter Norma Jean, Mrs. Herman Smith, and Bert Brumfield attended the rodeo at Sidney Thursday.
What fun it was to find these little snippets, telling the tale of the everyday lives of these Athelstan families that I’ve come to love. My world becomes larger as my heart expands to embrace these people from so long ago.
This blog was taken from the March issue of BACK STORY. To view the current issue of Back Story, or to sign up to receive this monthly newsletter delivered to your inbox, visit http://www.trishafaye.com.
Memories surround me of my trip to Athelstan Iowa last summer. I met some long distance friends I’ve made through the journey of tracing the origins of these 1934 squares. I made new friends. Every single moment of the trip is savored. My only regret … that it was not longer.
The Summer 2015 issue of Quilter’s World has a recap article of the presentation of the squares to the Taylor County Historical Museum. Unfortunately I had to cut the piece I submitted by over half. Also, the 16 pictures I sent with the feature were trimmed down to 8.
I’m itching to return, to visit with my friends in Taylor County. But … not now. It’s a cold day here in north Texas, 34 degrees, with light drifts of snow here and there. Close to us, but not a single snowflake in Roanoke. Our nighttime low tonight is 21 degrees. But I flip over to the Bedford screen on my phone. I see that it’s 10 degrees there right now, with an expected nighttime low of -8 degrees. Nope. I think I’ll wait to late summer/early fall before dropping in to visit.
I often think of how difficult the winters there would have been in 1934. Cold and snow, like now. But no central heating. Lots of fireplaces and wood burning stoves I imagine. Quilting would have been an important part of the women’s lives, not only for a creative outlet, but mainly to keep their families warm.
Since I’m anxiously awaiting the summer publication of Quilter’s World, which won’t be out for several more months, I’ll post a few photos here that didn’t get included in the final article.
Stay warm , my Iowa friends!
Saturday, August 9th, I’ll be at the Taylor County Historical Museum to deliver the 1934 quilt squares to a new home.
Sniff, sniff, sniff. I’m truly not ready to part with these squares yet. I love these little slices of life that entered my heart. But — this is the 80 year anniversary of when they were created. It’s time for them to go home.
I AM so excited though to be able to meet some of the descendants of the women that made these squares. And Leona, who was represented as a toddler in a square. And Rosalyn, the daughter, niece and great niece of three women who made a square. This part I’m really looking forward.
I’m also looking forward to seeing the Bedford Courthouse, seeing the museum, and visiting the cemetery where many of these women now lay.
Sadness in saying goodbye to these mementoes from life long ago.
Happiness at meeting new friends, who I feel are part of an extended family of mine.
Reports and pictures when I get back!
I can’t deny that I’ve purchased a few items embellished with these cut up old quilts. A few cards, a hanging sign proclaiming “Quilt Collector” with a scrap of old quilt attached, and my favorite – a framed Sunbonnet Sue from a local antique/collectible store.
Sunbonnet Sue’s wormed their way into my life and my heart. They weren’t particularly my favorite applique pattern. I didn’t dislike them; they just weren’t one of my favored designs. Then, one fateful day at an unplanned stop at a yard sale, I discovered a stack of thirty Sunbonnet Sue and Overall Bill quilt blocks, each signed with a name, and one dated 1934.
The past few years, as I’ve located the origin of these squares, and the people that created them in Athelstan, Iowa almost eighty years ago, I’ve become attached. As I find out more about the people behind the squares, and have met a few descendants of the squares (via email and Facebook), Sunbonnet Sues become more deeply entrenched in my heart.
So when I came across an entire quilt, covered with 48 Sunbonnet Sues, in one vendor booth at a nearby vintage shop, I had to snatch it up. Mine! All mine! Most of the squares are ripped and torn and the quilt is too shabby for any useful function. It’s one that most would call a ‘Cutter Quilt’. But I can’t do it. I look at all the stitching, some still in relatively good condition, and think of the hours of loving attention that went into creating the tattered, holey quilt that I hold in my hands.
I’m not sure what I’ll do with it. It may simply sit in my closet, keeping company with my other antique quilts, doing nothing but being loved. Cut it up? No, I just can’t bring myself to do it. For now, I’ll share it with you and celebrate its creation and existence.
The Americana movement has been establishing itself for sometime now and with the support of strong brands like Levi’s and Pendleton, this growing trend of American made goods is spreading like wildfire. This movement isn’t just thought about in regard to iconic denim and apparel, but an over-arching theme of “getting back to our roots.” Heritage is a word that we hear alot these days in describing collections or brand names, but for those that are truly accessing their roots, it means so much more.
The idea of “getting back to our roots” is something that I really relate to these days and find myself getting closer and closer to with each of the changes I make in my path. Being in Austin part-time I have been meeting many people that live the life described in the graphic above and I find all of it extremely inspiring and romantic…
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It’s Tuesday Tales time! This week we’re writing to the prompt – hand.
Calico Connections continues this week. Nellie Morris struggles to keep her children fed and her family clothed in the difficult post-Depression years. Her husband, Charles, has his own trials keeping the family farm out of foreclosure. And the children, they just want to be kids and have fun, money or no money.
Enjoy the next segment. For more tales from talented authors, click here to return to Tuesday Tales.
Doris leaned in and looked closer at the little piles. She sifted through the small piles of assorted fabric bits and pieces, pointing out different patterns scattered throughout the piles. “Didn’t Gerald have a shirt out of this fabric? Those are from the quilt on your bed. That one looks familiar but I don’t remember from what.”
I pulled my sewing basket onto my lap, rummaged around in it and retrieved a small fabric packet. “Here’s a needle for you,” I said. “Take this little piece of wool here; fold it over like this and it will hold your needle for you.”
We sat together, heads bent over the table, searching amongst the scraps for appropriate pieces. Most of the larger pieces were leftovers from feed sacks but there were a respectable number of calicos in various colors and prints. Doris had a nice little pile accumulated to get her started.
“You need a thimble,” I suddenly remembered. “I think I have two in here.” Searching the sewing basket again, I discovered a second one hidden on the bottom under some spools of thread. “It’s a little large, but we’ll cut off a small piece of this feed sack and put it in the tip, like this.” Reaching for Doris’ hand, I tested it on her middle finger. “There! Fits like a glove now.”
Standing up, I called out, “Time for bed. Rex, put your toys up. Gerald, put your whittling up for the night.”
I gathered the remnants, scattered all over the table, putting them back in the scrap bag. “You too, youngin’. Off to dream land, it’s a school night.”
Doris headed to bed with a smile broader than I’d seen for a long time. She hugged her newly acquired treasure trove tight to her chest.
“Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite,” I called out to the children. Doris ran back, catching me by surprise. She threw her arms around my neck and gave me a giant squeeze.
“Thank you Mother. I love my fabrics and sewing supplies!” she called out, heading to bed.
I hoped that delicious calico dreams awaited her. My own sweet dreams would come tomorrow when I got a rare trip into town. I bit the corner of my lip and hoped Charles would be in a good mood. Then maybe he would stop by Vivian’s for a quick visit.
It’s SNEAK-PEEK SUNDAY!
The rules are simple. Six paragraphs and six paragraphs only; of any published work or WIP. No more. No less.
Sunbonnet Sue’s for Doris is a picture book WIP about a set of 1934 quilt squares from Athelstan, Iowa. This is
only the second go round of revisions, so it may change a little as I work with the manuscript.
Here’s Part 3, come back next week for the next six paragraphs. Be sure to check out the other wonderful authors participating in Sneak-Peek Sunday.
Doris’ mother talked to Doris’ friends,
She caught them one by one.
She asked them here, She asked them there,
Until her list was done.
The girls were so excited.
They all jumped up and down.
Everyone wanted to be a part,
As news traveled ‘round the town.
Betty Balch was first to join
‘I’ll make a pretty one for me.
And brother John’s too,’ she added
‘For he can’t sew, you see.’
The Booher’s were next, Darlene and Leona,
To want to make a square.
We have a new machine to try,
We’ll sew on it; it’s only fair.
Katie Fidler and Lelah Clark,
The planned their little squares.
Jean Marie Carrol and Grace Murray too,
They stitched away with care.
‘Ours is next,’ Katie Kemery said,
‘Mine and Norma Gean’s.
We want to be a part of this,
Doris’ Christmas gift is so keen.’
It’s Tuesday Tales time! This week we’re writing to the prompt – shoe.
Calico Connections continues this week. Nellie Morris struggles to keep her children fed and her family clothed in the rough post-Depression years. Husband Charles has his own trials keeping the family farm out of foreclosure. And the children, they just want to fit in and be kids.
Enjoy the next segment. For more tales from talented authors, click here to return to Tuesday Tales.
A family is a patchwork of love.
I relented. “Go get the bag from beside my rocker and bring it to the kitchen, I’ll go get another lamp so we can see closer. Bring my sewing basket too.”
I dumped the contents on the kitchen table, mounds of printed calico and flannel cascaded over the surface in a kaleidoscope of colors. I began sorting the pieces into different piles. A shoe? It looked like Rex’s tattered baby shoe. ‘How did that get in the scrap bag?’ I muttered.
“I remember that one,” Doris said, pointing to a small piece covered with tiny blue and white daisies. “You made me a dress from that.”
“Uh-huh,” I murmured; “And before that it was one of my dresses. I cut it down one year to make you a new dress for school.”
The memories of the past ran though my mind with each scrap we looked at. Doris’ first dress, a shirt for Rex, pieces left over from baby blankets, even a small scrap left over from my wedding dress. A scrap bag contains a lifetime of memories, fragments of a life, bundled together in an old pillowcase.
It’s SNEAK-PEEK SUNDAY!
Sunbonnet Sue’s for Doris is a picture book WIP about a set of 1934 quilt squares from Athelstan, Iowa. This is only the second go round of revisions, so it may change a little as I work with the manuscript.
Here’s Part 2, come back next week for the next six paragraphs. Be sure to check out the other wonderful authors participating in Sneak-Peek Sunday.
It needs to be special
Said Doris’ mama loud.
I love that little girl so much
Of her, I’m very proud.
The ladies talked and wondered,
They thought, they stitched, they sewed.
‘I have an idea’ one of them squealed,
‘A friendship quilt; memories it will hold.
‘I’ll make a square for me,
And one for Mother too,’
Said Georgia Older, the postmaster’s wife
‘It’s something I’d love to do.
The ladies clapped, they smiled, they talked
‘A great idea’ they called in unison.
‘Let’s make them all the same,’ they said,
And plotted till they were done.
A boy, a girl, they thought was best:
Sunbonnet Sue and Overall Bill.
A popular pattern, it was the rage,
A simple quilt with nary a frill.