Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Modern Day Quilting Bee


Every fall through early spring, I tote my sewing machine to a quilting group where, at long tables set with our electric machines and other sewing paraphernalia, I and my best friend enjoy what I consider to be a modern quilting bee.

Quilting has been around a long time. The earliest known quilted garment, dating from Egyptian First Dynasty about 3400 B.C., adorns a carved ivory figure of a Pharaoh. In 1924 a quilted floor covering, dating from somewhere between the first century B.C. to the second century A.D., was discovered in Mongolia.

Quilting came to Europe courtesy of the crusaders via the Middle East in the late 11th century. Quilted garments were popular with the Middle Ages’ knights who wore them under their armor for comfort. In the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, visitors can view the earliest known surviving bed quilt, from the fourteenth century. The quilt is made of linen and wool padding, with a center design containing scenes from the legend of Tristan.

When the settlers came to the new world from Europe, they brought the art of quilting with them but probably not quilts, since the earliest quilts were considered a luxury item. These quilts were elaborately stitched and appliqu├ęd using expensive fabrics, not a patchwork of leftover materials. Patchwork quilts, by the way, are an American craft.

American history’s first reference to quilts is in a Salem, Massachusetts household inventory from the end of the seventeenth century. Because most of the early American quilts were probably made from scraps of used clothing and used until they were completely worn out, we don’t have any physical examples of colonial quilts. The earliest surviving American pieced quilt is the Saltonstall quilt from 1704. Historians are certain of the dating on this quilt because when the quilt fabric wore out they found a dated piece of newspaper that had been used in paper piecing the quilt.

In the nineteenth century quilt-making flourished in America, especially in the period between 1825 and 1875.  The quilting bee gained its popularity in America during the mid 1800s as settlers began moving west. The isolation of many women in the Great Plains areas made quilting bees an attractive and important asset. The patchwork squares the women had worked on all winter beside their firesides could be layered and stitched together into a finished quilt in one day. Anyone who has every tried to hand stitch a quilt can tell you that kind of speed cannot be accomplished by a lone woman. Even today, with all our modern conveniences to shorten house tasks, hand stitching a quilt takes a lot of evenings.

Our modern-day quilting bee doesn’t look like the one pictured on this YouTube video

because most of us are not hand stitching our quilts. But we do follow another time-honored, quilting bee event—talking with other women. For 2-4 hours twice a month, the twenty or so other women who attend, and my best friend and I, stitch, show off our quilts, and talk about everything from income tax to health issues to husbands and newborn grandkids.

This is where my modern day quilting bee’s resemblance to the old-fashioned quilting bee ends. The nineteenth century American quilting bee wasn’t just about finishing a quilt in a day or catching up with the girls. In fact, it was often the jumping off place for a community affair. A quilt on the frame meant socialization for the women, two community meals, and sometimes even dancing in the evening. And dancing in the evening, for many a young lady, also meant courting.

I can already see your writer minds going a mile a minute. Quilting bee equals dancing, equals courting, equals romance, equals happily-ever-after. J Now if we can just figure out how that works in a modern day setting.

One of Catherine's UFO quilt tops (Log cabin)
As for me, my quilting bee equals time with other ladies with whom I share a common love—quilts. It doesn’t hurt that lunch with friends is also a part of the day. I don’t even mind that most of my quilts are still UFOs (unfinished objects).
 
In fact, it might take a real, old-fashioned quilting bee for me to finish some of my projects.

 
I wonder who has a big enough basement?


 
 
 
 Don’t forget to leave  a comment to be entered in the drawing for Sins of the Mothers by Caryl McAdoo.

 

Catherine Castle is an award-winning author. You can check out her inspirational romantic suspense TheNun and the Narc at Amazon.

10 comments:

  1. I would love to learn quilting!

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    1. I hope you get the chance to learn, because quilting is fun!

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  2. I love quilts but have never done one. I want to tho, especially now. I have the crazy idea of doing one from my mother's clothing. ??? What am I thinking? Not sure I'll get it done. Not even sure how to start. We'll see . . . Lol

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    1. What a special quilt that would be! An easy square is a nine patch. No intricate stitches in that quilt. I hope you get around to doing it.

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  3. Your log cabin UFO quilt is beautiful! My friend on Mackinac Island in northern Michigan is a master quilter, and during the long winters on the island she and her friends get together weekly to work on their quilting projects. Interesting post, Catherine!

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    1. Thanks, Peggy. I put those log cabin squared together in a different pattern and I really like it too. Wish I had time to do weekly quilting!

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  4. I am always amazed by those who can make such beautiful creations! I love your log cabin UFO quilt top, Catherine!

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    1. Thank you, Brittany. One of the hardest things for me is choosing the fabrics. Some of the ladies in the quilt group I attend have such an eye for colors and mixing patterns. Thanks to all you ladies for stopping by today.

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  5. I have never tried my hand at quilting. It is such a beautiful, and useful, art form.

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  6. I'm not a sewer in the least, but think quilts are so neat. I have a patchwork one made by great grandmother. I would guess it's from the 1920's or sometime around then!

    One of my neighbors gave me and my new husband a Christmas pattern quilt for our recent wedding. I think she and her daughter made it together. How special is that?

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