What possesses a woman to cut out tiny
pieces of fabric and spend hours and hours sewing them together? The words of one help explain: "I made quilts
as fast as I could to keep my family warm . . . and as pretty
as I could to keep my heart from breaking." So while many
quilts were made for functional purposes, and some were made
for personal pleasure, some were also made to "show off."
"Finished my Sopha cushion
Cover tis indeed beautiful, there are 96,256 stitches on it.
could broider at the rate of 100 stitches per seven minutes,
which would take days, providing it was all plain. It is worth
at least 15 or 20 dollars to make it. the cost of material was
one & one half dollars."
Secret to be Burried: The Diary and
Life of Emily Hawley Gillespie, 1858-1888,
by Judy N. Lensink, (Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press,
Maker unknown, probably made in Midwestern United States
70" x 69"
International Quilt Study Center, James Collection, 1997.007.0108
Unusual techniques and time-intensive patterns were often used
to create quilted masterpieces. This unknown quilt maker created
a moving ring of color by sewing small folded squares of fabric
to a muslin foundation. Her piecing technique creates a swirl
of color and pattern radiating outward from the center of each
Maker, location unknown
68.5" x 67.5"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Mr. and Mrs. Robert
A. Chilvers, Neligh, Nebraska, 10427-1
This quilt belonged to the William Chilvers Family of Pierce,
Nebraska. The blocks are hand constructed and it is hand and
New York Beauty
Maker unknown, probably made in Missouri
79.5" x 80.5"
International Quilt Study Center, James Collection, 1997.007.0124
Circles and sharply jagged edges of elongated triangles collide
in the New York Beauty quilt pattern. Notice how the pattern
radiates from the small stars in the intersections of the sashing
and expands in an increasingly larger circle. Obviously, whoever
made this quilt was not a beginner.
Maria Louisa Calladay Hamer, Lincoln, Nebraska
67.5" x 68"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: M. L. Hamer, Lincoln,
Maria Louisa Calladay Hamer and her husband, Dr. Ellis Passmore
Hamer, came to Lincoln in 1877 from Vermont, Illinois. They built
a home in Lincoln at 1109 J Street in 1882. Members of the family
occupied this house until 1952. Highly decorated crazy quilts
such as these were made primarily to show off the maker's artistic
talents and to add beauty to the home, rather than for utilitarian
Josephine Justus, probably made in Missouri
85" x 85"
International Quilt Study Center, James Collection, 1997.007.0635
The Grapes and Vines quilt pattern, designed by Marie Webster
in 1914, features her trademark use of pastel colors in intricate
designs. The intricacy of the pattern in shades of purple and
green is superbly carried out by the maker, who painstakingly
appliquéd the grapes, vines, leaves, and tendrils. The
maker took her artistry one step farther and stuffed the grapes,
which appear to float softly above the quilt, ready to be plucked.
Clarissa Palmer Griswold, Sioux County, Nebraska
72" x 56"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Dorothy Griswold Gayer,
Clarissa Palmer filed a pre-emption and a tree claim on land
in Sioux County, Nebraska, in 1885 and moved into her cabin in
1886. Drawing inspiration from wildflowers she found on her claim,
she painted the flowers found on this crazy quilt, and wrote,
"That first summer I copied these flowers with oil paints
on silk and velvet pieces sent me from home. The crazy quilt
I decorated and pieced then, is now quite a showpiece to be handed
down." Clarissa was the mother of future Nebraska Governor
and U.S. Senator Dwight Griswold.
Maker, location unknown
86.5" x 82.5"
International Quilt Study Center, James Collection, 1997.007.0729
The brilliant night sky seen by women during their trek west
may have influenced the number of star quilts made by women in
the nineteenth century - the patterns are some of the most popular.
This is not a simple pattern to create - the diamond-shaped pieces
must be sewn exactly straight or the star blocks will not lie
N. Lowman, Baltimore, Maryland
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Helene Mitchell Foe,
This beautiful quilt was hand stitched by the donor's great aunt,
N. Lowman, who lived in Baltimore in the 1850s. It was made prior
to the aunt's wedding in 1858. The quilt made its way to Brownville
with one of Lowman's nieces, Sophie Schwab, in the later part
of the nineteenth century. Sophie eventually came to Lincoln
in 1879 and the quilt stayed in the family until it was given
to the historical society in 1960.