November Tea Party Winners: Carrie Fancett Pagels' copy of The Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides Collection - Debbie Curto, Christmas tea - Andrea Stephens, Golden Tea body wash Joy Ellis, lighthouse earrings -- Pegg's SIL from Lake Ann and Perrianne Askew, Pegg Thomas's Leather journal - Shelia Hall, and Writing Prompts book goes to - Connie Porter Saunders

Monday, January 30, 2017

Who Had Time To Quilt?

This 'tavern check' design is traditional but available now from American Heritage Fabric
Depending on how you look at it, quilting has been around for thousands of years. Quilting is the process of sewing layers together, after all. Fabrics are one of my obsessions and I find playing with it very relaxing. I always have. Recently, I went on a virtual research run into the history of quilting because I was curious what kind of filling or batting was used in the colonial era, if any. From what  I could find, batting was generally another layer of patched fabric, often wool or cotton. When it came to practicality, it was likely an old quilt in need of a new cover!

I was surprised to find that many historians wanted to clear up the misconception of ‘colonial quilts’.

Let me explain. While women—and men—have long used skins and fabrics for clothing and bedding, pretty quilts were in the realm of the wealthy. Incredible pieces of fabric work such as tapestries were found in homes where women were paid (or forced) to do the intricate work. If we jump to the colonial era, we find that women responsible for bedding in their own homes were far more likely to be spinning wool or flax after completing the work of ‘raising’ it. Add in weaving and keeping up with the darning and repairs. And that didn't include cooking, cleaning and raising a family.  They were lucky to get to bed at a decent hour without adding an aesthetic hobby.

Here is where the tradition of applique quilting comes in. Applique is the addition of a secondary piece of fabric, generally cut into a shape, and stitched on over the top layer of fabric.  An excellent way to hide holes and stains!

And who in the world has the eyesight to make those tiny itches by firelight? Not me!
From the Williamsburg Collection.  A "Baltimore Quilt" requiring hundreds of hours of labor.
Bedding made of layers was a great way to increase warmth and incorporate smaller pieces of fabrics. Especially scraps. Scrap quilts will always be loved for their link to frugality!

If a woman had a nice quilt, or counterpane, for her bed, it was often something she made as a young woman in preparation for her wedding. That work of love would have to last. Once marriage and childbearing came about… well, you know the rest. Colonial era quilts that have survived were probably created and never used. Perhaps by a woman who died early, or had the luxury of keeping it tucked away.

In the early decades of the 19th century, ready-made cotton fabric became available and the boom in quilting ensued. Even so, only the middle class bought new fabric for bedding. It is believed by many scholars that fabric by the bolt also brought about the ‘retro’ interest in colonial quilts, or at least the notion of what a colonial quilt would look like because few pieces survived.  Few families had the luxury of caring for a quilt and not actually using it! Hand scrubbing, lye soaps, boiling water and families of ten or twelve were not friendly to fancy quilts!
This is from the Williamsburg line of fabric from  Peach Tree Fabrics.  I love it!
If you too are a fabric fanatic, let’s commiserate.  I’d love to hear from readers, and find out your links to old quilts in your family or those you’ve seen in museums.  What kind of hand crafts would you be mostly like to do if you were a colonial wife?

I'm currently promoting a novella collection for Valentine's Day. While not Colonial by any means, this collection has both contemporary and traditional stories that are sweet, clean romances.
Stop in Friday, February 3rd, for our tea party where I'll be giving away a quilted Valentine table topper I've named "Chocolate Covered Cherries!"

the NINE novella collection is only 99cents. BUY now for Amazon Kindle

Debra E. Marvin tries not to run too far from real life but the imagination born out of being an only child has a powerful draw. Besides, the voices in her head tend to agree with all the sensible things she says. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Sisters in Crime, and serves on the board of Bridges Ministry in Seneca Falls, NY. Her published novellas include, “Alarmingly Charming” in Austen in Austen Vol 1 from WhiteFire Publishing, “Desert Duet”, "Starlight Serenade" and "Why Not" from Forget Me Not Romances, after many unpublished contest successes including two finals for the Daphne DuMaurier award. Debra works as a program assistant at Cornell University, and enjoys her family and grandchildren, obsessively buying fabric, watching British programming and traveling with her childhood friends

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  1. Just seeing that blue and white fabric makes me want to sew.

  2. I love to quilt and make them for members of the family. I find it peaceful and relaxing. The history of the quilts was very interesting.

  3. Thanks, RoryLynn! I love the convenience of the machine, but I like to have a hand quilting project for the rare times I sit to watch tv. Last night I watched Victoria and became so engrossed, I forgot to pick up the project I hurried to finish so I could work on it as I sat!

  4. I always wanted to learn to quilt. I have arthritis in both hands so I know that this is a dream that has died. I love looking at them and hearing the stories about them though.

    1. I'm sorry to hear that, Debbie. My retirement plan is to finish all my projects, so I hope my body holds out. The eyes are iffy, already! I love looking at them, especially at the county fairs and state fair. I'll never be that fussy. Have a great week!

  5. I love all old things. We lived in an historic house while I was growing up. My mother was an antique dealer. Today I am quilting some potholders for favors for a rally our Church is hosting in April. I just learned how to use my walking foot! I re-topped an old quilt for my boys when they were little and we were living in North Dakota. My mother in law made wonderful quilts and gave us several and our children, too. I would probably be too busy to quilt if I lived in Colonial times. I'd probably be a servant! Just started watching Victoria and I can see why you forgot your project!

    1. I have an antique crazy quilt with all the trimmings and velvet and silk, but it's put away 'for safe keeping' as it's too fragile to even display. The walking foot helps, doesn't it? But my old machine doesn't like change, so I still had trouble with free motion quilting or the walking foot. I'm going to try to make those pot holders that are shaped like bowls (microwave pot holders?) They are great for warming up soup which I do half the week! Thanks for commenting, Paula! Have a happy February!


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