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.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

It Comes From Alabama

Lena Wallace’s block is Alabama, Barbara Brackman 2024, and was published in the Hearth and Home magazine in the 1930s.  Before I started my reproduction of Lena’s quilt I had to decide what size blocks to make.  The original blocks vary between 10.5 and 11 inches and I settled on 10 inches for my blocks.  To make the Alabama block I cut the strips 1 5/8 inches wide.

Now that I’ve made Lena’s quilt I want to use it as a springboard for another quilt.  I thought about what I like in 1930s quilts. 

  • I like the 1930s feedsack prints with white backgrounds - the focus is on the bright colours and tiny prints.
  • I love sampler quilts, especially with multi-sized blocks all jumbled up and no sashings.
  • I like the feedsack prints without white, just lots of contracting colours and prints and patterns (like a Dear Jane without the amazing commitment to all 169 different blocks).
  • My favourite block size is six inches, not too big and not too small.

Hmmm.  Looks like I need to start two quilts; one with multi-size blocks and white background and the other with six inch blocks in a variety of prints.

So…. (drumroll please)…

Here is the quilt-a-long.  I will suggest some different blocks based on Lena’s friends’ blocks and you can choose to make your own blocks or different blocks or no blocks at all.  You can make one block or a few blocks.  I expect this quilt will occupy the blog for not quite twelve months so by the finish we should all have a pile of blocks to assemble to please ourselves.

Alabama Block

Here is the Alabama block, finished size 9 inches.  Cut your strips 1.5 inches wide.  The centre is a nine patch and the block gets built around that.  If you would like more instructions try the Quilters’ Cache - an excellent resource for patterns. 

What about the six inch block?  I am not going to cut 1 3/16 inch strips for anyone.  So I searched around for something similar and found Pennsylvania, BB2023.

Pennsylvania Block

Just right, 1.5 inch strips, cut the centre piece 2.5 inches square.  This pattern was printed in a Nancy Page syndicated newspaper column in the 1930s era so it fits right in.

I do hope you feel inspired to make some 1930s blocks.  If you have any suggestions or ideas or questions just add them to the comments or on Facebook.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Lena Wallace and Malaga 1937

Lena was born Helena Teresa Joost in South Dakota in 1888. At the age of 19 Lena married William Harry Wallace.  Lena and William moved to Malaga, Washington, in 1934.  The Wallace family were orchardists, growing apples like many of their farming neighbours.

Lena spent most of her married life in Malaga and when she died at the age of 84 she was survived by her four children, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

My initial theory about the origins of Lena’s signature quilt was that it had been made for Lena by her friends.  The quilt was featured in the Down Under Quilts magazine in 2013 and this was what I wrote at the time:
“I found each of the twenty-five women on the quilt though  The name in the centre is Lena Wallace, aged 47, and I looked for a reason behind the quilt making.  The women were aged between 25 and 65, a few were in the work force but the majority were keeping house.  I could not find an event or occasion for Lena to celebrate with her friends.  What I did find was a clue in the 1940s census.  Lena’s parents were born in Germany and the language spoken at Lena’s childhood home was German.  I’d like to think that her friends were saying, ‘No matter what is happening in Europe and the rest of the world, we are your friends and neighbours and your home is here with us.’”

A few months ago a new thought struck me: maybe Lena made the quilt herself from blocks she collected from her friends.  I posed the question on the Facebook group Antique Signature Quilts and received a positive response.  There were many local women’s clubs during the 1930s and piecing blocks during a meeting was a popular activity (Quilting History Tidbits); also, during the 1930s friendship quilt craze women made more than one block to exchange with others.
The more I considered this new version the more it made sense of some of the quilt’s anomalies:
- there are three different dates on the quilt.  A group project would probably have recorded a single date.
- one of the women on the quilt, Sarah Cannon, died in 1936.  Lena might have been exchanged blocks for a period of time before she had enough to make the top, and Sarah’s would be included.
- Lena Wallace was a long-time member of the Malaga Homemakers, a church group known for its quilting activities.  Many of the women represented on the quilt attended the same church as Lena, but not all: one woman was Catholic and another was Jewish. Lena may have exchanged blocks in her church group but also with other women that she knew from the town.
- the four house blocks around Lena’s block are not made from 1930s material but are indigo and white and potentially fifty years older than the rest of the quilt.  Someone was saving this fabric for something special.

I am now fairly convinced that Lena made this quilt herself from blocks exchanged with her neighbours and her friends.  I plan to introduce you to those neighbours and friends over the next few months but first I want give you some ideas about making your own blocks - that’s next week’s post.