From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Cousin Alta's Quilts

(And some other examples of quilting and needlework)



I drove over to visit my Cousin Alta one day this week. She lives in Tennessee about 100 miles southwest of here. We had a pleasant afternoon of talking about family history and life in general. Alta and my mother, Doris Sees Hill, were first cousins. Alta's mother, Elva Sees Hix, and my grandfather, Harry Sees, were brother and sister.

We started talking about and looking at quilts when Alta's friend came by to return some quilting books. She brought along a pinwheel(?) quilt and an unfinished quilt top that she wanted to show Alta.

The fabrics of the quilt top are vivid turquoise, pink, and purple prints. Alta's friend laughed about her daughter who said, "Mom, that's just not you!" when she saw the colors.

After her friend left, we looked at some quilts Alta has made. I photographed them so the Prairie Bluestem readers can enjoy them too. However, the photos don't do the quilts justice because they don't show enough of the detail.

Alta made many of the blocks for her embroidered quilts when she and her husband went camping. The quilt in the photo at right is edged with eyelet lace.

Two more of Alta's embroidered quilts:


We spread the quilts on Alta's bed, one on top of the other. Alta said she would leave them stretched out there for a few days to let their fibers relax. It's not good for them to be rolled up all the time.

The quilt at left is a friendship quilt that includes blocks made by relatives. Alta showed me this one to give me an example of how I might set together some quilt blocks that my Grandma Nora gave me.

When Alta and her husband first moved to the little village where she lives, she wanted to make a friendship quilt, but she didn't know anyone who could or would make a quilt block. She didn't realize how many quilters lived around there and how friendly they were! The quilt at right is the result.

Alta showed me three Log Cabin quilts that she has made.


I think Alta told me that she made the quilt in the photo at left for a quilting class she taught. The same fabrics are used throughout, but combined differently in each block.

As I was labeling these photographs and getting them ready to post, I wrote that this quilt has a pinwheel pattern, but now I'm wondering if they are windmills instead.

The quilt at right is a Fourth of July quilt. Each star is made of a different, star-patterned fabric. The back of the quilt is a star-patterned Christmas fabric, so it can be reversed for the winter holidays.

After she had quilted for a while, Alta realized that she had a big collection of quilt blocks that she had made as experiments, trying out different patterns and fabrics. She fitted them together and made a sampler quilt. A good name for it would be "The Joy of Quilting."

Alta's mother (my great-aunt Elva) was a quilter, too. Alta has a wedding ring quilt that her mother made. Also, Alta has framed a nice piece of embroidery done by her mother. Alta learned to hand quilt so she could finish some of the quilt tops her mother left her.

When Alta was a little girl, the Omaha World Herald published a quilt block every week, for the ladies to trace onto fabric and embroider. Alta used the World Herald patterns to make her first quilt when she was about ten years old - a Wild West quilt (photo at left).

Every embroidered block features a historic Western character, such as John Brown, Calamity Jane, and Sitting Bull. Alta's mother machine-quilted it for her after she had all the blocks set together.

Another interesting old quilt was given to Alta by a neighbor lady in Nebraska. This neighbor lady was single all her life and known for being grouchy. However, Alta was kind to her and became her friend. When Alta and her husband moved to Tennessee, the lady wrote to her every day for many years.

The quilt was handmade by the neighbor lady. It has an unusual Sunbonnet pattern, partly appliqued and partly embroidered. Alta says she has never seen the pattern in any other quilt.

Alta's current project is a baby quilt (photo at right). She traced the animal pictures from a coloring book and embroidered them.

These photographs don't represent all the quilts that Alta has made. She can't even remember how many quilts she has made and given away.

Related posts:
Friendship Quilt
A Beautiful Handmade Quilt
Crazy Quilt
Old Quilts Need Special Care
Cover Stories Worth Preserving

5 comments:

Stitchy Mc Floss said...

I love, love, love all the beautiful quilts and needlework you shared with us. Wish I had a Cousin Alta! :)

ptg said...

My Grandmother Elsie on my Dad's side made quilts. She used fabric from old clothes and sewing scraps.

I still use one of them to keep warm in winter. It is getting worn out, but I think that is what Elsie would have wanted.

heelers said...

I never thought I'd be so engaged by an article about quilting. Very engaging Gen. Nicely done.
Also liked your recent one about the door on the downtown 1880s building, and the accompanying photo!
Doorways to the past..
And finally have just reread the spiritual quotation right at the bottom of your home page. Boy did I need to hear it.
James
PS: Enjoyed the pic of the barns down there too.

Genevieve said...

I had one quilt photo that didn't turn out at all -- it was fuzzier than the two fuzzy photos that I did post. I should have told its story though.

Alta saw a fabric that she liked -- a print that was mainly blue with flashes of green, yellow, and other colors. She was wanting to try a new quilt pattern, so she bought enough of the fabric to make a quilt, pieced together with white. She didn't realize until she had the quilt well underway that the theme of the blue print was Cuban rum. She calls it her "alcoholic quilt".

Stitchy Mc Floss said...

Miss Alta is a hoot. I think the only thing that could have been funnier, is if she had made the quilt with the "drunkard's path" block!

Here's a site with the pattern, just in case she has some fabric left over. :)

http://www.quilterscache.com/D/DrunkardsPathBlock.html

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.