Quilts from the Past

I’ve already admitted in previous blogs how much I enjoy using pieces from the past as inspiration for stories. Sometimes it’s postcards. Sometimes it’s old pictures. Sometimes it’s vintage dish towels. Often, vintage quilts force their way into my stories too.

Years ago, in southern California, I stopped at a yard sale and stole a whole laundry basket full of vintage quilt tops and quilt squares. No, don’t go picking up the phone to call the sheriff. I didn’t really steal them. I paid for them. In cash. I forget whether it was fifteen or twenty dollars. (It was about twenty years ago, so cut my memory some slack, please.) But for that nominal amount, I got three old quilt tops, two of them hand stitched, and a set of thirty quilt squares created in 1934. So, yes, I stole them!

Of the thirty quilt squares, 27 of them had names stitched on them. I know the year was 1934, because one had the year stitched into the bonnet, along with “From Mother, To Doris.”

It took me many years to discover where the squares originated from. By then, I’d moved to Texas, far from where I’d purchased the quilted goods. By then, additional information had been put online, and I found that the women and young girls came from Athelstan, Iowa, a town that no longer existed (except for the few remaining old buildings).

I don’t have the square anymore. When I discovered that a museum nearby would take them, I headed to Iowa to hand them over. They held a Quilt Tea for me, and I met many of the descendants of the women that stitched these squares so long ago, many who are dear friends to this day.

If you’re anywhere near southern Iowa, you can check them out – along with many other wonderful delights – in the most fabulous place – The Taylor County Historical Museum. There are so many delightful treasures there that you could spend all day there – and more – delighting in their pieces of the past.

Just a note – I’m at work at finally writing the story about these squares, which will be my Christmas book this fall. Calico Connections. But I’ll post more about that when I have the cover and we’re closer to the end point.

One of the quilt tops that was in the laundry basket of items was an unusual pattern. It was similar to one called Grandma’s Flower Garden, along with a few other popular names that I’m not recalling as I write this. But the main pattern had an extra hexagon on each side, elongating the design. I loved this quilt top so much, it’s hanging in my window where I write, so I can see it every day. (Protected from the sunlight from the back with a doubled navy blue sheet, of course!)

Several years ago, I finally discovered the pattern name – Diamond Field.

I wanted to use the quilt top in a story, but I also didn’t want it to compete with the quilt squares. (You can find out more about them in Memories on Muslin, or in a easy reader children’s book – A Gift from the Heart, written as Jasper Lynn.) So, I did what fiction writers can do – I moved them.

Having some research from an area in northern Arkansas, Goshen and Mayfield, near my Dad’s house, I moved the quilt top south and proceeded to write the story about some women from Arkansas. (My apologies to whoever created the quilt top originally, most likely someone from Doris Morris’ family in Iowa)

The Diamond Field Quilt is a short story in Pieces of the Past, a collection of 13 historical fiction short stories. It was slated to be out by now, but I got held up with extra medical appointments, scans, infusions etc. (Not for me, but my better half) Pieces of the Past should be out by Mother’s Day.

But even though the writing and publishing isn’t going nowhere near as quickly as I’d planned for this year, I still enjoy looking at the creative work that someone spent so much time on so many, many years ago. Each hexagon, hand stitched together, with many rows of hexagons between them. I can’t fathom the patience it took to stich these all by hand. I tip my hand to you, anonymous woman from the past.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ronel Janse van Vuuren
    Apr 25, 2022 @ 11:15:35

    I like looking at quilts and wondering at their stories.

    Ronel visiting for the A-Z Challenge My Languishing TBR: Q

    Reply

  2. Gloria Caviglia
    Apr 25, 2022 @ 11:32:26

    Trisha Faye, not only are you preserving these pieces of history, but you are preserving the past in stories that will be enjoyed by all.

    Reply

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