Thursday, October 20, 2016

Meet the Album Family

Maude Laughlin chose the pattern Album Block for her contribution to the Malaga quilt.

In "The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt" Carrie Hall calls this Album Patch.
The original idea of the Album quilt was a gift for a bride-to-be.  A group of friends would get together and each would piece a block and embroider her name upon it.

Carrie Hall's Album block, Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas

Other names for this block are Arbor Window, Courthouse Square, The Crosspatch and Odd Fellow's Block.  Barbara Brackman's blog post has a good collection of Album block quilts.

It's a simple block to make but a challenge to get to the finished size that you require.  I had to make a few to get a 9 inch and a 6 inch block I was happy with.  The difficulty is the points at the seam allowance - you don't want to lose them when the blocks go together.

1880's orphan - points finish right at the edge

For a 9 inch block I cut the squares at 2.5 inches.  The setting triangles are 5 inch squares cut diagonally twice, and the corner triangles are 3.5 inch square cut diagonally once.

 Assemble the pieces in rows including the setting triangles, then add the corner triangles.  Trim to 9.5 inches and the squares should all keep their points.

This similar block is Nine Patch Checkerboard (Checkerboard, Old Mail, The Queen's Favorite).  I don't like cutting 7/8th or 15/16th, I like more sensible fractions, so I made the squares smaller and the setting triangles larger.  For a finished 6 inch block, the squares are 1.75 inches, the setting triangles are 4 inch squares cut diagonally twice and the corner triangles are 3 inch square cut diagonally once.  The block will have a wide margin and I think that suits the 1930s look.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Housewife Maude and the Electric Farm

Maude Laughlin was a farmer’s wife – although it took her a long time to find her farmer.

Maude was 54 when she made her block for the quilt.  In 1937 Maude and farmer husband George had only been married a few years.  Both George and Maude had been married before; Maude’s first husband was killed by a freight train as he was walking along the railroad tracks.  George was a widower; neither George not Maude had any children.

In the 1940 census George Laughlin’s occupation was listed as ‘farmer’ and the number of hours worked in the previous week was 60.  Maude Laughlin’s occupation was ‘housework’; hours worked was left blank on the form.  I wonder if Maude was amused or dismayed by the lack of significance of her labour compared to that of her spouse. 

In the late 1930s 25% of American farms were connected to the electricity grid.  Power poles ran alongside main transport routes so connection depended on proximity to main roads.  If the Laughlin’s farm did not have a grid connection they would have other sources of power.  Windmills, gasoline engines and sets of batteries were standard power sources.  Kerosene lamps were used for lighting and the cellar or icebox would keep food cold. 

Connecting the farm to the electricity network was actively promoted in the 1930s especially for dairy farmers.  The modern farmer needed pumps for automatic watering systems for cows to drink from; milking machines; motorised cream separators; and of course refrigeration instead of ice.  Electricity saved labor and farm costs and thus boosted profits.

When the electricity arrived in the farmhouse the first use was for lighting.  Next were electric irons and vacuum cleaners.  Kitchen refrigerators remained very expensive for years and the uptake was slow.  

In 1937 the thrifty housewife could trade in her old vacuum cleaner and purchase a new one for $21, ten days free trial.  An electric washing machine with wringer was $29.95, although the modern gasoline motor washing machine was still a best seller.  She could even buy an electric kitchen range from the mail order catalogue with

 …inside oven light, a sensational new feature.  Lights up automatically as the oven door is opened, illuminating every corner of the oven.”

Contrary to advertising electricity did not lessen the housewife’s workload.  Social expectations changed with the new power source.  Meals had to be better with more variety, houses needed to be cleaner and wardrobes of clothes were more varied and laundered more often.  Housewives in 1940 worked about 60 hours per week on the housework – just the same as their farming husbands.

“Orange Juice – This mixer is appearing in a new finish of chrome and white to fit the color scheme of the bride’s new kitchen.  It beats, and mixes, and mashes, too.  It has more strength than a dozen brides.”  

Friday, September 30, 2016

Cactus Basket, Cactus Pot

.... or, a Texas Rose by any other name .....


Even if you have only just started to explore quilt history you will soon discover the difficulties of naming a quilt block.  Names change over time.  The same block can have different names depending on when and where it was made and the same name can be applied to different blocks. 

Cactus Basket

In her book "Old Patchwork Quilts and the Women Who Made Them" (1929), Ruth Finley states that this block dates pre 1800. Names are Cactus Basket, Desert Rose, Texas Rose and Texas Treasure.
In “One Hundred and One Patchwork Patterns” (1931) Ruby McKim calls the same block Flower Pot.

Cactus Basket 6 inch

If you are going to make Cactus Basket you will find it has diamond shapes and Y seams.  It's not difficult but it is a little more time consuming to make nicely.  I use EQ7 to get a template for the diamond shape and then use a rotary cutter for the other pieces.  I have looked online for a pattern but have been unable to find a free one, if you come across a source let me know and I will add it to this post.

Carole has told us that there is a free pattern for the Cactus Basket at Legend and Lace. In fact, there are plenty of free basket patterns there - definitely worth a visit.

Here's another option with no diamonds or Y seams - it's a Cactus Pot. It's much easier to make.

Cactus Pot 6 inch

The block looks almost the same.  It was first published in the Oklahoma Farmer Stockman magazine in January 1930 and all sources seem to agree on the name.  I found some tutorials online too.

Cactus Pot 4 inch

I have had a chance now to think about what direction this blog adventure will take.  If all goes according to plan, there will be a pattern for a 1930s sampler quilt in 2017 based on Lena's 1937 Malaga quilt.  If you don't like mystery and you do like detail you can wait and make a quilt next year.

However ...

If you like a bit of a mystery and don't mind if a block or two don't get included in the final project then please sew along with me and add some input to this 1930s quilty adventure. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Sarah Cannon, Pioneer Wife

Lena Wallace's friendship quilt has blocks made by twenty-four of Lena's friends.  My plan is to present a little bio of each friend in a blog post one week and the following week to share blocks inspired by the originals.  So, here is Lena's friend Sarah.

Sarah Cannon ~ Cactus Basket

 Sarah Sanders was born in Polk County, Oregon on 31st August 1864.  Sarah was the youngest of six children.  Her parents Erial Sanders and Amanda Goff were originally from Kentucky in the Eastern United States.  Erial and Amanda felt the lure of the west and followed the Oregon Trail, crossing the Rocky Mountains in a covered wagon drawn by oxen.  The journey would have taken the Sanders five to six months and needed to be timed to get through the mountain passes before the winter snows.

The Sanders family didn’t settle in a single location.  The census of 1870 found the family in Montana; in 1880 they had moved to Washington.

In 1884 at the age of nineteen Sarah married Thomas Jackson Cannon.  Thomas was eight years older than Sarah and was an ordained minister with a passion for bringing the Gospel to the sparsely populated frontier.  In 1888 the Cannons with two year old Edward and Baby Ettie moved to the Entiat Valley in Chelan County, Washington. Thomas and Sarah and their children were the first white settlers in Entiat.  Thomas Cannon built a sawmill to support his family and held worship services in the mill building.  He was a key contributor to peaceful relations between the white settlers and the native Indian population.

Sarah Cannon’s third child Dema was the first white child born in the Entiat Valley.  There was no medical doctor to call on for Sarah’s confinement; there was still no doctor when young Edward developed pneumonia and died as a consequence.   Sarah and Thomas had nine children in total; four daughters and two sons lived to adulthood.

After living in Entiat for fifteen years the family moved to California, then returned to Washington and settled in Chelan County.  Thomas worked as a chaplain in the State Penitentiary.  A severe attack of influenza left him in poor health and Thomas Cannon died in 1925 at the age of 65.

Sarah continued to live in the home she now owned in Malaga.  Life was not a bed of roses.  Her son Lee Jackson was killed in a trucking accident while he was working in England in July 1945 leaving a wife and a young daughter.  Sarah’s daughter Nola was widowed at the age of 25 and her daughter Dema was widowed at 30.

Sarah Cannon lived to the age of 72 and died on 11th  December 1936, four months before the quilt was completed.   Lena Wallace moved to Malaga in 1934 so Sarah was probably one of Lena's first friends. This block was possibly one of the first blocks Lena exchanged to make her quilt.