Fremont County, Iowa

Interesting Stories of Quilts
by Sherry Perkins
View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
May 4, 2009

Kansas Dust Storm...Irish Chain...Nine Patch...Lone Star...Wedding Ring...Flower Garden...Log Cabin..Joseph’s Coat...Church Dash...Dresden Plate...these are just a few names from thousands of quilt patterns. A renewed interest in quilts happened in the 1970’s through the 1990’s, thanks, in part, to the “country” decorating movement. Family quilts came out of trunks, attics and drawers. Fabric shops flourished and quilts sold at auctions for top dollars. At last, quilts were recognized as an art form and appreciated for their history, their stories and their handwork.

Ordinary women were praised for their artistic talents. These quilts expressed hardships, joys, sorrow, events and the importance of family and home. Most were made from an array of scraps--the quilts used fabrics of the time that came from house dresses, aprons, wool bits, work clothes, curtains, etc. Many quilts were made from feed and flour sacks. Occasionally, a fabric might be ordered from the Sears-Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalogs where a two-inch sample picture was all you had from which to select.

Quilting bees provided women with places to visit, exchange local and family news, recipes and swap fabric swatches. Women quilted while listening to news of the war on radios, while hearing children recite their alphabet or numbers, or while waiting supper on the husbands who were out in the fields. Originally, quilts were made mostly for the necessity for warmth in harsh winters, but soon they were being stitched for aesthetic reasons. Early quilt patterns traveled by wagon train, were guarded like jewels and were shared proudly with others.

When the Kansas City Star and the Oklahoma Farmer- Stockman began printing quilt patterns in their papers circulation increased as women finally had access to new and more patterns. The Great Depression years probably left us with more quilts that any other era.

The quilts of the last half of the 20th Century are more color-coordinated and made from fabric purchased from fabric stores. Now church and civic organizations feature quilt shows where one can enjoy past and present quilts and appreciate the art form and handiwork. Museums are also a place to view quilts and area museums will be glad to show you their collections. For example, a special upcoming Quilt Exhibit will be held in conjunction with a delightful English Tea at the Ferrel House in Randolph, Iowa, on Saturday, May 9th from 2 to 4 p.m.

Will Thompson, the Fremont County Museum curator from Iowa City, was recently a visitor to the Ferrel House. He praised the many features, historical accuracy and artifacts on display. He declared this unique, 1871 Victorian Home, carriage house, wash-house and wild-life sanctuary complex a place of “living history.”

The Ferrel quilts will be on display on Mary 9th (some 100 years old), as well as many many others. One can tour the home, view The quilts and share in the special English Tea, on May 9th all for only $5.00 per person.


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Page updated on June 20, 2017 by Karyn Techau