This April we are once again blogging along with the A-Z Blogging Challenge. Our team of one-place studiers will be sharing some of the treasures to be found for a one-place study, particularly around the theme of Visualisation, our Shared Endeavour for 2016.

quilt

There are many quilt patterns, some as regular as the one shown above, and others, the "crazy quilt" made of whatever snips and patches were available (see here for an example). A quilt could be the occasion for a social gathering. On the American frontier, there were few forms of entertainment and a quilting bee made a welcome occasion to get together with neighbors.

Jesse Green, in his memoir, told of his attempts at quilting as a seventeen-year- old:

We had our first quilting party, at the hospitable house of Joel Strawn late in the fall of 1835. He had a large field of corn unhusked, and as it was late in the fall, the old gentleman called for volunteers to husk corn that day while the girls did the quilting. We were all very brave and enlisted to a man, but the girls interfering and urging so strongly that I had not been used to such work, succeeded in having me rejected, they claiming that they wanted an errand boy. The boys did a good days work husking corn, for which father Strawn was very thankful, and I enjoyed myself hugely with the girls quilting, but when they came to examine my work they frequently found some of their sleeves sewn fast to the quilt.

Quilts served many functions besides the obvious use on beds. For families moving west on the frontier, quilts were used to cushion breakables, to cover over gaps in the wagon to keep out the wind and dust, or to provide a bit of padding on the hard seats. After arrival, quilts had uses other than as bed coverings. They could cover windows, protect against drafts, and be hung to partition off a room.

In 1832 the Black Hawk War, a conflict between the United States and Native Americans, caused unrest in northern Illinois. Word came that 15 people, including women and children, had been killed at Indian Creek, about ten miles from Dayton. John Green's house at Dayton was defended by a wooden palisade around it and families for miles around came there for protection. Fearing that arrows could penetrate cracks in the defenses, quilts were tied over the fence to block up any holes, one of the more unusual uses for quilts.

Quilting continues to the present day and those whose grandmothers and great-grandmothers spent the winter with the quilting frame set up in the spare room have treasures indeed.

Candace Wilmot

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