Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Scraps of History: Post Civil-War Scrap Quilts

Great repro of a late-19th-century scrap quilt by Lissa Alexander

We're Blog Hopping this week about the new book Oh Scrap!

A few more scraps of history from the book.

Same idea---smaller pieces.
From about 1900

I found many references to scrap quilts in periodicals of the 1870s and '80s. They were quite popular in those years with subcategories like quilts of thousands of small pieces and charm quilts (one shape and no two pieces the same.)

About 1885

Magazine editors and writers often had opinions as to what their readers should be doing with their time---

Annie Curd in Good Housekeeping in 1888 invoked nostalgia to defend the "Old fashioned scrap quilt, of which our mothers and grandmothers were so proud..."

A Four-Patch "Friendship Blues" from Oh, Scrap!

Annie liked the "modest quilts" - nine patches, Irish chains.

Plus Marks the Spot by Lissa Alexander

Apparently not all grandmother's quilts were desirable:
"I do not mean the gay red, green and yellow abominations known as the 'Rising Star' and 'Setting Sun' that we see year after exhibited at the annual county fair."

This "abomination" belongs to the Westmoreland Museum of American Art
and was photographed by the Western Pennsylvania project and the
Quilt Index.

Readers weighed in on the topic: " neater in my opinion than a neat scrap quilt to say nothing of economy...I save every scrap left over from my dresses & aprons..."

"Quilt-making has many enemies and many firm supporters...."

A fan of scrap quilts in 1874 wrote she could not defend buying "costly material just to cut up and sew together."
Charm quilt from about 1880 from Moda's collection

Julia Dent Grant in 1854

On the other hand the fan wanted to know:  "Who has not calico scraps? Even Mrs. Grant [the President's wife], I presume, has calico dresses.... What could be nicer than a neatly made, pretty, calico patchwork quilt, although she need not use it at the 'White House' unless she wishes." 

Julia Grant did not comment.

This may have been a sore subject for the First Lady. Isabel Ross in her book The General's Wife: The Life of Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant refers to a long-unfinished quilt.

When Julia Dent and Ulysses Grant were engaged between 1844 and 1848 and waiting for her father's approval in the midst of a fad for quiltmaking...
"she started a quilt that Ulysses would always tease her about, for it went with them everywhere and never was finished. Shortly before his death [in 1885] he jested about this in a letter to [daughter] Nellie."
Well, we'd all like to see that quilt top.

This scrappy star quilt is attributed to Grant's cousin
 Epsi Addaline Grant, according to the owner
Kathy at the blog RubyLemons. 
A Texas neighbor gave it to her family with the Grant story.

I have no idea of the accuracy of that tale but it is certainly a scrap quilt.

And let's hope Epsi Addaline didn't bring it by the White House to show it to cousin Julia. An awkward moment perhaps.

From Lissa Alexander's Oh, Scrap: Fabulous Quilts That Make the Most of Your Stash
Here's the schedule for the blog hop this week. Every day we're giving away a free e-copy of the book.

March 20 Mellissa Corey

March 21 Carrie Nelson

March 22 Sherri McConnell

March 23 Fat Quarter Shop

March 24 Teresa Silva

March 25 Jane Davidson

March 26 Martingale Publishing & Winners Announced


Janie said...

I guess a magazine editor or writer then, as the media now, took their job very seriously.
Preaching their version of quilt sensibility to the people.
As if housewives were sheep to be led. Some things don't change.
I love the photos from Lissa A's new book, Oh Scrap!

Wendy Caton Reed said...

Red, green and yellow abominations, oh my, clearly Ms. Curd did not live in Pennsylvania!

Kleine Vingers said...

Tastes changes and are personal. What one persons loves another dislikes. And maybe that is good because it gives variation. I love scrap quilts but I also love many other types of quilts.

MaryBeth said...

What great quilts. Thanks for sharing!

Marianne said...

Scrap quilts are the best. I love all the interesting fabrics.

siamkitty said...

I love scrap quilts! but I have learned that my definition of scrap quilts differs from everyone else's. To me. a scrap is that piece of fabric that everyone else throws away. That tiny little 1" and smaller piece that no one thinks is good for anything. I have boxes of them and so far have made two doll quilts, with three others in progress that might be lap sized quilts. I do not cut them into specified shapes, just trim any frayed edges, lay them out on the cutting board and play with them until I am happy with the result, then sew them together by hand. More fun than making a quilt from a commercial pattern or block, IMHO.

Karen McMahon said...

Thank you for some interesting history of scrap quilts. I am glad to know that I have something in common with a former First Lady. I have a few quilts I fear will never get finished!

Connie said...

This post brought to mind a story I came across online recently:

"Female Ingenuity. --Miss Jane Craighead, a young lady of this borough, has recently completed a quilt, which for beauty and ingenuity exceeds any thing of the kind we have ever seen. It is composed of 6521 pieces, all of the same size and shape, but each one of a different pattern. Any one can judge of the work there is on it, as well as of the patience of the lady who made it, from the fact that it was commenced sixteen years ago, and has occupied the most of her leisure moments ever since. Harrisburg Chronicle. Our opinion is, that Msss[sic] Jane Craighead has wasted sixteen years of the period of life most desirable and valuable, in a most ridiculous manner; and that if she had been employed in the acquirement of useful knowledge, and the performance of ordinary female duties, it would have been much more creditable to her than this miserable wastage of time and labor upon a patchwork bed quilt, worth about as much as any other which might be made in three or four weeks. We think that the woman who thus throws away time and the opportunity for improvement, is entitled to reprehension and not to commendation. We trust never to have such a notice presented to us for publication, of the labor of any woman of this country. We know they can, and we hope they will find better employment for their time."

I laughed so hard when I read it!

Source: The Northern Standard (Clarksville, Texas), Vol. 1, No. 14, Ed. 1, December 10, 1842


Karmen said...

You always have the best blog posts!

Barbara Brackman said...

Connie. That's great. It's the difference between men and women. Women need to keep their hands busy so they can think. You know it's men that say we are wasting our time. Who wastes their time? People who sit and do nothing?