Monday, July 21, 2008

Pioneer Quilting: Drudgery or Creativity?

We have all heard the story that in the old days women made quilts using scraps because they were poor and had to make do with what they had. It makes it sound like quilt making was a drudgery. Perhaps it was for a few, but most found quiltmaking to be a creative outlet. Following are examples of how much quilting meant to two pioneer women.

"The Quilters: Women and Domestic Art, an Oral History" A woman tells the story of her mother who settled on a remote homestead in Texas. Her husband had to get wood for winter, a trip of several days. He was away when a terrible dust storm came up. The dugout was dark and gloomy and the wind was terrifying. Years later she told her daughter, “If I hadn’t had the piecing, I don’t know what I would have done.” Imagine how cheerful making a quilt of bright colored bits of fabric must have been to such a woman.

Another example that indicates how quilting was a creative outlet for women is seen in the story of Dorinda Moody. She was a part of a group of Mormons who settled in a part of Utah well away from other settlements. It was a rough and difficult life but she still found time to design and make quilts. The book Pioneer Quiltmaker: The Story of Dorinda Moody Slade states, "Dorinda obtained ideas for her quilts from her own creative mind and from the trees, plants and natural objects around her. She always kept a notebook and pencil on the table next to her bed. When a quilt design occurred to her, she would light her coal-oil lamp and draw out the design."

Take a look at the quote at the end of each page of my blog. Quilting sustained a lot of women over the years and still does today.

(quilt and log cabin photos from the Project Gutenberg)