Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Quilting Bee Part 1

I enjoy buying books about quilting almost as much as buying old quilts.  My latest is Ruth Finley's "Old Patchwork Quilts and the Women Who Made Them".  This is an ex-library copy, but it is a first edition from 1929.

It's a surprising interesting book to read.  Finley was born in Akron, Ohio (just like my sister) and became a journalist and a collector of quilts.  There is a fascinating article about her here at thequiltshow.com. She did many interviews with women about their family's quilts, trying to capture the social context as well as the quilts.

I set Alice McClellan's story at the quilting bee where the CCCQ was being quilting.  I was quite pleased to then read about quilting bees in 'Old Patchwork Quilts'; especially about quilting a bridal quilt.

"The quilting (bee) was in those days considered the most solemn and important recognition of a betrothal." 
"The dower chest of the old-time bride was supposed to contain at least a "baker's dozen" of quilts.  Twelve of these were fashioned with a view to every-day use; the thirteenth was a "bride's quilt", a piece de résistance so elaborate of design in both pattern and quilting that it was to all intents and purposes a counterpane.  The bride's quilt was planned and executed only after a girl was definitely engaged.  The others, so far as piecing went, were the work of the years of maidenhood.  And, as top after top was finished, they were laid away to await quilting.  There were several reasons for this latter custom, the most important being that the real cost of a quilt came only when the wadding and back had to be supplied.  This expenditure was pointless until such time as a new home was about to be furnished.  So to invite guests to the quilting of a girl's "tops" was the equivalent of announcing her approaching marriage."
I guess UFO's weren't such a problem as they are today!

Ruth Finley also writes about the friendship medley quilt.  This was a surprise party, often organised for a newly engaged woman by her best friend.

"At such a party the guests arrived early in the afternoon.  Each brought her own material, and the first thing to be decided was who would piece which pattern.  This was a merry task, for no two blocks might be alike and some were far harder to construct than others.  The rivalry though was for the intricate designs rather than the simple; it was an occasion for displaying one's deftness with the needle.  But there was not too much delay; for it was etiquette that, by the time supper was served, the blocks should be both finished and set together and thus the entire top done.  The material for the set was furnished by whoever it was that got up the party.  Of course, the boys put in an appearance for the feast.
"It was obligatory for the girl honored by a surprise medley to give the quilting bee that must follow to the same list of guests.  I have never seen an unquilted "Friendship Medley" top."

1 comment:

  1. How amazing to learn that the women would complete the blocks and have them put together during the course of the party - they certainly worked faster than what I do :)


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