Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Quilting Day

 My wife grew up in a quilting community. When a good friend told us about a quilting frame his great-grandfather had made by hand, we couldn't wait to see it. Johannes Jonasson, a Swedish carpenter, migrated to Burlington, Iowa from Sweden in 1882. He crafted this quilting frame around the turn of the last century. My good friend Jim, and his sister Susan, decided to gift this family heirloom to us, because they wanted it to be in a home where it would be used to make quilts.

As you can see, this frame came to us in pieces and I had to assemble it. Everything is handmade, even the wooden pegs that hold the parts together, and the sprockets that are used to keep a quilt tight. We took a quilt that my wife's great-aunt Merle owned, and placed it in the quilt rack to try it out.

While I was putting this together, my wife reminisced about "quiltings" she has been a part of over the years. She remembered that when her mother "put in" a quilt, she would invite ladies from her Mennonite church to come help. They made a social event out of it. They used a slightly different style of frame, that would hold the entire quilt wide open in a large square. The first day 10 to 15 women would sit around it on all sides quilting. When the edges were all finished, fewer quilters would have a place at the quilt. On a second day, maybe only 6 ladies would be invited to come help. When the quilt was nearly all finished it would look like this picture below, and a woman may finish quilting it herself. Or, she may have a daughter or two help.

I remember stopping in to pick up my wife and seeing the ladies all working hard. I also remember them laughing, telling fun stories, and having plenty of good food around, also.

My wife also has had the privilege of being invited to several Amish quiltings. She told me that it seemed somewhat more business-like at those gatherings. She remembered that they were making quilts for "a cause" but she doesn't remember what. Maybe it was the Mennonite Benefit Sale, where everything is auctioned off and the proceeds go to Pleasantview, the Mennonite retirement home in Kalona. She said that they wanted women who could quilt at the same "quick" pace to sit on the end, so they didn't have to wait for a slower worker to finish before rolling the quilt. She remembered that our Amish friend, Alma, had to help her finish her section to keep the others from waiting.

A very special "thank you" to the Olson family for entrusting this beautiful artifact to us.

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