Growing up in one of the poorest areas in the state of Ohio was seldom fun but was often challenging. A lot of people went hungry every day, were homeless or without jobs. Somewhat like today’s economy situation. And while some felt more fortunate than others, they were far from being wealthy. For us, there never seemed to be enough money to go around, but there was always food on the table and we always had plenty of quilts for warmth, thanks to my grandmother (Maw).
Some of my fondest memories from my childhood days include watching Maw make quilts. Throughout the year she would save every little piece of material no matter what color or what size it was. Nothing was thrown out. And the whole family knew that with the first sight of the fall leaves turning their vibrant colors, Maw would be in the living room with her huge bag of scraps figuring out a design for her next creation.
One of my favorite quilts was what Maw called her “crazy” quilt. Piecing the scraps together as though she was putting together a jig-saw puzzle, the quilt was certainly different and very beautiful, although a little crazy. This was the one and only of its kind in the family and it is still treasured by us today. Making quilts can be fun for the whole family, and quite often is passed down through generations. For example, my grandmother quilted, my mother quilted and I even tried my hand at quilting and got quite good at it. Quilting is a way of expressing your artistic abilities with one-of-a-kind designs and patterns, and can also be a very relaxing hobby.
Of course, quilting has been around a lot longer than when Maw made them in the 1950s and 1960s. Traced back to ancient Egypt and China, the oldest surviving quilt known to man is from approximately the first century BC to the second century AD. Found in a Mongolian cave, the quilted linen piece is now displayed at the Saint Petersburg Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Although some say they are the same, quilts should not be confused with comforters. A comforter is a “thick” bed covering made with three layers just as the quilt. However, most comforters are filled with a down or polyester batting which gives them a “puffy” or “thick” appearance. Quilts are not as thick, often filled with a light-weight batting or a blanket, and are tied or have a stitched design. Basically, the idea is the same.
People have enjoyed quilts throughout the years for many reasons. They often tell the history of our past; they provide warmth on those cold, wintry nights; they provide a legacy that can be passed down through generations; and they provide enjoyment and happiness from working with so many colors, textures and designs. Some even collect quilts or make them for sentimental reasons. Quite often, children and adults alike became ill or came in contact with many diseases such as cholera, diphtheria, scarlet fever and chicken pox. Not having the medical technology as we do today, many died from these diseases. Often it was small children who were affected. Due to the many deaths in these trying times, quilts were often sewn in memory of that family member. These quilts were mostly made of scraps from the child’s favorite dress or a piece of clothing of the deceased one.
Some of the most popular quilt designs include patchwork, log cabin, Amish quilts, and grandmother’s flower garden. The patchwork quilt was designed during the earlier years when there was a shortage of fabric and what fabric could be found was very expensive. They were often made from used and reused scraps of old worn clothing, and were cut to fit together to form a block. The blocks were sewn together in a design that was both colorful and artistic. Many of these designs have been passed down through generations and still exist today.
The Amish are known for their simple way of living, plain dress, buggies, furniture and quilts. Because they felt quilts were too modern or fancy, they shied away from making them until the 1870s. Amish quilts reflect the Amish way of living and their religious philosophy, and are among the most highly-prized with collectors and quilting enthusiasts. They most generally have dark borders and use very few colors and patterns. Most Amish quilts are made with black, purple, brown or blue fabric, and they are one of only few quilts that are not reproduced in China today.
Another pattern with a long history and a favorite of many quilters is the log cabin. Traditional log cabin blocks are made with a light colored side for happiness and a dark colored side for sorrow. A yellow center represents a candle burning in a window to help guide family members home at night; while a red center represents a fire burning in the hearth in the home. Many quilters believed that a black center represented a safe haven and comfort for slaves who escaped during the Civil War.
(Underground Railroad scholars have recently debunked this notion.) The log cabin design became a big part of the American household around 1840, but it appeared in many county fairs a few years earlier. This design is still popular today with many quilters.
Quilting is a form of art that is popular with all age groups, young and old; and it can be done individually or as a group. These intricate skills were generally passed down from the mother to the young children. Throughout the years, quilting has historically been linked to women because of their sewing skills, and it was an important part of all women’s lives during earlier times. Typically, quilting was done on large hoops or quilt frames. The quilt frames normally hung from the ceiling so when not in use they were out of the way and normally used for group quilting because it was easier and more efficient.
Over the years, quilting has played a huge role in our history. For many years quilting helped people deal with crisis, tragedy and grief. During the Civil War many women made quilts in memory of loved ones lost to the war, and often these quilts were made with scraps of clothing from that loved one. Blue Star Banners, often referred to as Blue Star Flags, were designed during World War I. Army Captain Robert Queissner designed and patented the symbol in honor of his two sons serving on the front lines. These popular quilted banners and flags are still hanging in the homes of many families today who have loved ones in the service. The Blue Star Banner is designed with a blue star on a white field surrounded by a red quilted frame. Each banner can have up to five stars; and if a soldier dies or is killed while serving in the military, the blue star is replaced with a gold star.
Today, people are still creating quilts to express their opinions for various causes. For example, in 1987 quilters created a huge AIDS memorial quilt; during the Gulf War, quilts were made in support of the war as well as in opposition to the war; and one cannot forget the indefensible attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Quilts were made as an outlet to express compassion and fear by honoring those who were killed during the 2001 attacks on the United States. All in all, you can see how quilting has played an important role in our history. From the beginning of the first century BC through today, quilting has become as familiar with the American lifestyle as baking an apple pie.
If you are not a quilter yourself, check out the beautifully hand-made quilts at one of the Scott Antique Markets in either Atlanta or Columbus, Ohio. Sheryl Brock of Greenfield, Ind., travels to the Ohio market with her antique quilts and has done so for the past five years. She not only sells quilts, but has furniture, dishes, crocks and baskets in her antique collection.
Brock started collecting antique quilts fresh out of college when she purchased her first one at an auction. What she is most attracted to when purchasing a quilt is the strong color and good graphic design. “I love the look of old quilts,” Brock stated. “I’m more drawn to the crazy quilts and log cabin designs.” When customers are purchasing quilts from Brock, she said everyone is looking for something different. “Nothing is identical,” she stated. “It’s mostly people in their 40s and 50s who purchase quilts. Most generally older people in their 60s or so are trying to give them away or if they are buying, it’s to complete a collection they may already have started.”
Quilts can range in price from $50 to $1,000 or more depending on the condition, but the average price is between $200 and $300, according to Brock. “I sold a red and green appliquéd quilt with a white background last year for $275 at Scott Antique Markets. It was an early 1800s quilt,” she stated. Brock said there are several reasons quilts are so popular and people are quick to purchase them: quilts are a great investment; they provide history from the past; they are reasonably priced; and the better quality quilts will appreciate in value over the years. Brock will have a display of quilts for sale at the Scott Antique Markets, held November through March at the Ohio Expo Center, in the Celeste and Bricker buildings.
For more information on Scott Antique Markets in Georgia and Ohio, call 740-569-4912 or visit www.scottantiquemarket.com.
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