Monday, March 3, 2014


      The other day, I attended a breathtaking quilt show at the First Lutheran Church, sponsored by the Interfaith Quilters of Longmont. 

Cockscomb & Princess Feather
1859 - 1917
Susan Adair, Black Hawk, Colorado
From the Collection of Jeananne Wright

    It sounded like a nice outing, and I would get to share some time with my terrific sister, Kathy. Turns out, we got an historical education as well, and it was worth driving through a near-blizzard to get there. 

 Jeananne Wright
Upon our arrival, we were swept away by a wave of people flocking toward a tiny lady dressed in Victorian clothing as she stood beside a large bed heaped with quilts. 

   Jeananne Wright, of Longmont, Colorado, is a nationally recognized quilt historian, a Certified Quilt Appraiser, and since 1995, she has given over 350 quilt lectures and programs, all in period costume. 

Water Lily
Virginia Gabriele and Barbara Reid
Embroidered and appliquéd 1937- 38, quilted in 1993
From the Longmont Museum’s Collection

    Jeananne is also a retired 4th grade teacher and an avid golfer. Her students must have adored her, as the presentation we attended was humorous, interesting, and went by all to quickly. She began collecting quilts in the 1960s and has one of the most complete collections in the country, with quilts spanning 200 years. 

About 1932
Grandma Dolma Sibke, Iowa
From the Collection of Jeananne Wright
(my two donkeys, Rosie and Jackson, insisted the above quilt be included.)
Grandma Dolma Sibke of Iowa made this doll quilt for
granddaughter Jeane Dorsey.   Dolma, a Democrat,
enjoyed a good argument with her Republican son-in-law.

   Many quilts were resurrected by Jeananne and repaired by backing them with feed-sacks, which contained lively pictures, and even the names of towns and states. She also backed several with cloth calenders if she could find the year corresponding to when the they were made. 


    One quilt had an intentional mistake in the pattern. Some Native American quill and beadwork items also contain such "errors" as a sign of humbleness or humility, the logic being only God is perfect.  

Redwork Penny Square
About 1908
Maker unknown
From the Collection of Jeananne Wright

     Redwork Penny Quilts became popular between 1890 and 1920 due to the advent of a new colorfast red dye, Turkey red. For a penny apiece, you could buy the squares at the general store or mail order.  

Four Patch
1900 - 1915
Maker unknown
From the Longmont Museum’s Collection
When my sister and I were little, if we were sick enough to stay home from school, we stayed downstairs in our parents' bed, beneath the crazy quilt. The time passed more quickly pondering those different fabrics, and making up stories to go with them. 

Sunbonnet Sue
1925 - 1935
Maker unknown
from Jeananne Wright's collection
     The Sunbonnet Children, a design created by Bertha Corbett of Denver, evolved in the early 1900s. One story is that Bertha didn’t know how to draw faces, so her mother suggested she draw sunbonnets instead. Another, and more likely, story is that she felt a face unnecessary to make an expressive figure.

Cockscomb & Princess Feather
1859 - 1917
Susan Adair, Black Hawk, Colorado
From the Collection of Jeananne Wright
    This quilt maker, Susan Adair, traveled to Colorado from Missouri in a covered wagon with her husband and three children. “Made with the first Howe sewing machine to come to Colorado,” this is the oldest quilt documented as having been made in this state. Susan could not read or write, but she was exceptionally skilled at both hand and machine appliqué. 

About 1940
Helen Shepard, Denver, Colorado
From the Collection of Jeananne Wright
    Beginning in the 1880s it was fashionable to make quilts with small pieces. This is an intricate and difficult pattern and represents hundreds of hours of work.

Postage Stamp
About 1885
Maker unknown
From the Collection of Jeananne Wright
There are 9,240 half-inch squares in this quilt.
          Although not a difficult pattern, this quilt represents years of work, again using small pieces and perhaps for a competition. It was a good way to use fabric scraps. Hand pieced, this is one of the favorites in Jeananne’s collection. 

      At one time, green dye was difficult to produce and could only be created by first dying yellow and then blue, resulting in overdyed green.

     In the “old days” there was a tale stating an engaged girl would need a baker’s dozen (13) quilts when she married. The 13th would be the most spectacular quilt, and she would not be allowed to take a single stitch in it or she would have bad luck.

Stars & Stripes
1861 - 1875
Maker unknown
From the Longmont Museum’s Collection

    Jeananne showed another quilt containing a rather pumpkin color dye, and mentioned it would spot if touched by buttermilk. I also learned that a counterpane, generally not backed or containing any sort of batting, is more of a coverlet than a true quilt.

    And here is my own bit of info. After my husband died, I took all his flannel shirts, cut them into large squares, and made a small patchwork quilt. As far a technique and creativity, it is light years away from what I saw at the show, but no quilt was made with more love, and I cherish it.

   This post has not even scratched the surface as far as quilt history, nor does it truly express my awe as I stood surrounded by hundreds of quilts of various artistic designs, and trillions of hand-set stitches. 

    Thank you to the Connecting Threads Gallery Guide, Traditional Quilts and Jeananne Wright for the pieces of information contain here in.


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