Treasurer Patches of History
By Ramona Francis,
Local Quilt Show Features Quilts from
On Tuesday, July 27, The Heart of California Quilter’s,
a nonprofit organization based in Madera, will be hosting a “trunk show,”
featuring quilts from the Civil War and Depression eras.
Guest presenter, Janet Fletcher, will display approximately
15 pieces from her collection. “All have been dated and appraised,” she said.
“One of the quilts is dated 1852 and signed by a man, but
was most likely a quilt presented to him,” says Fletcher. “Another quilt
referred to as a ‘Friendship’ quilt is dated 1898”.
All quilts displayed in the show are presentation quilts,
rather than working quilts, meaning that they are quilts given as gifts to
brides, going away presents or to honor someone.
The Madera quilting group began in 1991 by founder Phyllis
Giersch. This was the same year she sold her Madera based quilt shop called
Patchwork Pansy to give more time to her seriously ill daughter.
Selling her shop did not stymie Giersch’s interest in
quilting arts. Beginning from her early introduction as a girl growing up in
Kansas, her learning continued. Fast-forwarding in life, she later taught
quilting in Madera and in 1997 was recognized as Artist of the Year.
Linda Sloan, the Program Chair for the Heart of California
Quilters said, “Plans are being developed for a quilt museum in Madera.”
Fletcher agrees. “I would love to see a fabric art museum with quilts as a part
of it,” said Fletcher. “We would need to have a way to sustain it.”
When talking about annual activities of the Madera
quilter’s group, Sloan described the “Opportunity Quilt”, a quilt used as the
primary fundraiser for the nonprofit. The yearly quilt making activity has
generated money, more than to cover the cost of the quilt, but to also support
the program. What is left of the money is donated to the art department at the
Additionally, members make and donate small quilts, called
comfort quits. These are given to children in crisis through the Children’s
Protective Services, Valley Children’s Hospital, and any other organization
where they are needed.
“The organization has given away over 100 comfort quilts,”
said Linda Sloan.
America's Quilting History
Historically, quilting is an activity that women did to
fulfill a creative niche while at the same time making something practical for
the family. Bedding was indispensable, particularly on cold nights and
attractive patterns and fabrics introduced simple beauty into the home.
A great number of quilts were made during the civil war
period as a means to raise money, and for soldier’s bedding. Women in the
southern states were involved in commercial ventures of patriotism by quilting
during the Civil war period in history. As interest in quilting increased, the
quilting became more elaborate. Women created beautiful quilts often of silk.
There is even mention of silk Log Cabin quilts. Competing in fairs, the quilts
brought in a great deal of money to help buy needed supplies for the Union.
Waves of commemorative quilts were made after the war.
Northern women were accustomed to gathering together and
sewing for a cause. During the war, church and abolitionist groups simply
changed their focus to helping soldiers. Soldier’s aid societies were formed.
An organization called the Sanitary Commission was established to do what was
possible to prevent the death of soldiers from disease and injury. As the
urgent need for soldier’s bedding became apparent the Sanitary Commission added
the collection and distribution of donated quilts and comforts to their
activities. (Judy Anne Johnson, from America’s Quilting History)
Quilts of the depression era were not necessarily for
private use either. Quilting was a way of earning money to help a family get by
financially. Both country and city dwellers collected scraps of material to do
piecework for pay. The quilt could be made from sewing scraps and from
out-grown clothing, to minimize or eliminate expense.
The continuity of quilting is the continuity of a fabric
art, kept alive by those who recognize its unique value. Quilting continues to
bring women and sometimes men together, people who are building communities,
sustaining an art, refining workmanship, maintaining its history and giving to
causes consistent with the long tradition preceding it.
For more information about American Quilts see extensive
www.pbs.org , then search for American Quilts.