Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Parts of the United States that experience cold winters are known for quilts. Quilts are those snugly warm coverings for the bed and some can be quite heavy. Some are strictly utilitarian... made to keep you warm. Often however they are also artwork. 

Most of the quilts we had as I was growing up were patchwork quilts. They were made of patches of whatever fabric was available. Often it was left over from making clothing. On the farm my grandmother had many that had a lot of denim in them. They were the warmest.

Anyway the patches were cut and sewn together to make squares. The squares were sewn together until there was a giant piece the size needed to make the quilt. Bunting was used as a filling and there was a single piece used on the other side of the bunting. The warmest ones were flannel.

All the edges were sewn together to make a big blanket sized quilt. Thread or yarn was used in even sized spaces to hold the bunting in place so it wouldn't bunch up in one spot or another. Sounds comfy doesn't it? They are.

There are also patterns for making prettier quilts. Daisy and double wedding ring are two that popped immediately into my head. With all of the "artwork" quilts the pieces of fabric are sewn into planed designs to create the desired picture. The rest of the process is the same.

Quilts are entered into contests like the ones at county fairs. They are judged by the artistry, originality, and stitching among other things. Often they are sold for large amounts of money. And believe me they are beautiful.

Now way back in the "good old" days quilts were a way for women to get together to socialize. In the pioneer days there really were not many activities for women away from home. So they would have quilting bees.

The women would meet and bring their quilts scraps and needles and set to work while catching up on the news of the day. The quilts were made for a specific family. It might be the family of one of the women at the bee or it might be for someone less fortunate. Remember people on the prairie had to take care of each other.

Today there are quilting clubs. They could be sponsored by a sewing teacher, or an arts and crafts store, or maybe just several people who are interested in making quilts. Usually they are making quilts for their own use and each person does their own. It may take weeks to complete but what a sense of accomplishment each one feels.

I believe it is the final rest area in Iowa before crossing into Illinois that has some interesting history about quilts. Quilts were one of many signals used by the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was the organization of routes and stopover spots for slaves escaping slavery before and during the Civil War.

If there was activity or danger of any kind quilts would be hung on the line. Certain patterns meant certain things as well as the way the quilts were hung on the line. They might tell where and when the runaways should meet to continue their journey. Or they might mean to stay hidden because there were people looking for them. If you ever have the opportunity to stop at this rest area you should read all the things they have displayed.

Quilt barns have become very popular. A quilt barn has an area, usually above the door, with a quilt pattern painted on it. Most of the time they are painted right onto the barn but I have seen some that have been painted onto wood pieces that are arranged and fastened together like a quilt. All are different and all are pretty.

I have even begun to see quilt patterns painted on garages. It is something I have been pondering for some time. I am not artistic but who knows? Maybe this is something I could do.


  1. I am with yiu on quilts, Emma, and have never made one or even bought a handmade one. There are some quilting clubs in this area. However, when we visit family in Lancaster, PA, is where we see many places selling ones made there. We also see many of them handpainted on barns as yiu described. I have never seen any painted on barns here, but that doesn't mean there may not be some around as there are a lot of farms and barns.

    1. I do not recall seeing any as I was growing up but children often see only what interests them. I think it is a lovely thing to do.

  2. I have several of my Grandmother's homemade quilts and I treasure them! I love the way that she put the colors together and I notice that on one quilt where there is a nice blue color, there is an outline of Mr. Peanut! (From Planters Peanuts!) It was fine to use it though, as it is only a faint outline, and I love to think that she thought of someone noticing him and smiling! :-)

    1. How wonderful to have those quilts of your grandmother. They are a beautiful reminder of where your family came from. The Mr Peanut outline only makes it more special.

  3. Oh! And I meant to say that I am glad that they were used for the Underground Railroad. Whenever someone talks of quilting on the English blogs that I visit, I like to tell them that and they never know that! I would say that there are a lot of Americans that don't know it either. Shame how little we Americans know our own history...or care!

    1. I must be honest. I did not know about them being used for the Underground Railroad. As a matter of fact I had no idea that the Underground Railroad operated this far west! I had as good an education as almost anyone and that was not taught to me.