Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Yankee Notions #2: Schoolhouse

Yankee Notions #2
Schoolhouse by Becky Brown

Last month we discussed Yankee Notions about education. Even after the Civil War, notions about free public education continued to divide North and South.

Hoople, North Dakota, 1899

From the early days of the United States the federal government granted new states acreage to be sold to fund public schools. Western states responded with thousands of one-room, rural schools that became an American icon.

Pieced schoolhouse quilts were quite popular after 1880 or so when the schoolhouse image emphasized education's importance.
Many patterns were published in the early 20th century.

Ruth Finley, writing in 1929, was not a fan of these figurative designs, calling them "Appealing yet absurd." She viewed the whole idea of pictorial piecing as a milestone on civilization's post-1880  downhill slope. She seems to have been in a pessimistic mood finishing up that book Old Patchwork Quilts. 
Schoolhouse by Dorry Emmer

We, however, find  them quite appealing.

Album quilt top from Oak Ridge, Missouri, dated 1898
American Museum of Folk Art Collection

This top seems obviously a Little Red Schoolhouse but some of the patterns were called cabins or homesteads at a time when nostalgia for the old days of rugged pioneers captured the hearts of Americans---The days of one room schools and log cabins.

Snokomo School in Waubunsee County, Kansas, 1930s

Quilt embroidered with name "The Old Homestead," online auction.

"The Old Schoolhouse" in a crazy quilt dated 1904

Old Log Cabins and Little Red Schoolhouses evoked the past but the one-room school icon also was used to encourage improvements in education at a time when classroom innovations and stricter standards were suggested. The image was two-sided: A view of past virtues and a vision of future improvements.

Schoolhouse by Denniele Bohannon

How red were the actual rural schoolhouses? Jonathan Zimmerman in his book Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory notes that most one-room schools were white. An 1890 Ohio survey found only 2 of  132 schools were red. Red was a popular color in New England, thus a Georgia woman advocated white paint for a Georgia school, he notes.

The Yankee Notion valuing education remains important. In this recent ranking of public schools  4 out of the top five are New England states: Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, & Vermont. Virginia is sixth.

States Ranked for their School System Quality,  
Adam McCann for WalletHub

The Block

I chose this version (BlockBase #864) as it seems to make for efficient cutting & piecing.

However, the model makers did not agree. Becky says: Take just a scosche (how do you spell that word?) off the 1-7/8 strips or your house will be too big for its lot---Zoning problems, I guess. Dorry cut them 1-1/2" wide.

Schoolhouse by Dorry Emmer
Text on the roof

I say: If it's too big cut off the edges and blame the architect. If it's too small add a strip of sky or an addition to the side. As my brother-in-law, the genius carpenter used to say: "You can't see it from the road."

And it's a good thing we are not doing a whole subdivision.

12" Block

A - Windows.Cut 10 strips 1-7/8" x 4-1/2".
B - Walls. Cut 3 strips 1-7/8" x 7-1/8".
C - Chimneys. Cut 2 strips 1-7/8" x 2-1/2".
D - Sky. Cut 1 strip 3-1/8" x 5-7/8".
E - Sky. Cut 2 rectangles 2-1/2" x 3-1/8".

F - Gable end. Cut 1 rectangle 3-3/8" x 5". Mark the midpoint along the top and cut a triangle. Or see the templates.
G - Rafter. See the templates. Cut 1.
H - Roof. See the templates. Cut 1.
I - Sky. Cut 1 rectangle 2-3/4" x 3-5/8". Cut in half diagonally for 2 triangles.

18" Block

A - Windows. Cut 10 strips 2-1/2" x 6-1/2".
B - Walls. Cut 3 strips 2-1/2" x 10-1/2".
C - Chimneys. Cut 2 strips 2-1/2" x 4-1/2".
D - Sky. Cut 1 strip 4-1/2" x 8-1/2".
E - Sky. Cut 2 rectangles 4-1/2" x 3-1/2".
F - Gable end. Cut 1 rectangle 4-5/8" x 7". Mark the midpoint along the top and cut a triangle. Or see the templates.
G - Rafter. See the templates. Cut 1.
H - Roof. Cut 1 strip 4-1/2" x about 13" or 14". See the template for the angle.

I - Sky. Cut 1 rectangle 3-3/4" x 5". Cut in half diagonally for 2 triangles.


A triangle in an extra strip along the top plus a square---a school bell tower.

From Case Antiques in Tennessee, about 1900

February's Tangible Yankee Notion

A good pair of shears has always been an
important investment for a seamstress. 

18th-c Parisian peddler

We can imagine the Yankee peddler might display wares
beyond the price range of some of his customers.

Like needles and thimbles scissors, a two-bladed tool, go back to antiquity with improvements advertised often in the industrial age: Better metals, better blades, better hinges and more comfortable handles.

Queen Victoria's scissors from the BBC

To say nothing of added ornament.

We take scissors for granted but it's important to remember that a good fabric scissors is expensive.
What would quilts look like without them?

What if you had only a knife or a very dull scissors?
You'd tear your fabrics and right angles would
be your options.

Album quilt dated 1900 from the Pat L. Nickols collection
at the Mingei Museum

And here's why scissors look like storks.
This may be TMI but the stork scissors were originally clamps used by midwives and then surgical snippers.

German scissors made for a midwife

Denniele is making an 18" set of blocks. Very graphic.
As Sara Farley says: "Go big or go home!"


Dorry said...

I love the house block. Decades ago when I first started making quilts my second ever completed quilt was a Little Red Schoolhouse and I still love it and display it. For this Yankee Notions project I am making two sets of blocks - one set will be 9" finished blocks hence the easy math of cutting the window and door strips at 1 1/2".
Thanks Barbara for all the interesting and fun facts about this block.

Faunacoco said...

Barbara, I wanted more information about this notion. Difference between scissors and shears. Did Yankees have buttonhole cutting scissors like I’ve seen? When did those come into being?

Love a schoolhouse block; thanks for continuing to expand on the education theme. Got me thinking about the seat of intellectuals and Ivy League schools...

Sandy said...

I love this schoolhouse block, Barbara. Would it be possible to get a pdf of the pattern/instructions? I'd like to make a whole quilt of these.

Judy Morin said...

Copy and paste. Save as a PDF. Done.

Cynthia@wabi-sabi-quilts said...

Never knew that about the stork scissors - so interesting!

Sarah Jane said...

Awesome!I'm a newbie and love the site! I wanted to do a school house quilt for a long time, but shied from trace and cut patterns. I found a pattern that used svg files for a digital cutter and started to cut. Whoever made the transition did not stay in inches, so everything is off a skosh.
(The word skosh comes from the Japanese word sukoshi, which is pronounced "skoh shee" and means "a tiny bit" or "a small amount." The Japanese word was shortened by U.S. servicemen stationed in Japan after World War II.)
Argh! Well, quilt making isn't supposed to be easy, but full of interesting digressions! Like your web-site! Thanks again!