When pioneer women sewed quilts, they were not looking to write history. They were simply piecing together warmth for their family. While a few perhaps created for the sake of art, survival was more of their focus.
I had hoped to write about this topic last week right after I talked about the International Quilt Museum and Study Center. As that ended up being multiple entries anyway, this post was put off. But since quilts are such an important part of pioneer history and thus an integral part in the past of Nebraska, I decided this was an essential topic. Once I began to research, I was surprised to see the name of one of the authors on the title of a book referencing this title.
This book cover photo is courtesy of Amazon.
Stephanie Grace Whitson has been a favorite author of mine for years. She is a Nebraskan who has set many of her fictional stories in this state. Since reading a novel is an enjoyable way to learn parts of history, I know that she has educated me on Nebraska’s past simply through her ability to tell a wonderful tale. While the majority of books that I read I now check out from the library, I actually own all of her books. At least I thought I did – evidently I was only managing to keep up with her fictional titles.
So, I checked out the title, Home on the Plains: Quilts and Sod House Experience, that she coauthored with her friend, Kathleen Moore. And I am positive that the title will eventually find its way to my library. What a delightful book! Interspersed with the stories of hardy pioneer women are photographs of their quilts. Reading diary excerpts of those who endured and helped to transform the barren land into the Nebraska of today reminded me of just what a challenge being a settler was.
The book is divided into three sections …
- Settling In
- Staying On
- Quilt Projects
You read correctly – if you are a quilter, patterns of eight pioneer quilt projects are included. Complete with patterns, instructions and color photograph examples. The authors actually quilted many of the examples themselves. The research is meticulous, and the story is captivating. I will soon be reading the book cover to cover. If you are not a quilter, the project section also includes the background story of each quilt, so that was even interesting to me. Rather than me expounding on pioneer quilts, I am going to simply recommend that you get a copy of the book!
The book might just inspire you to want to learn even more about pioneer quilts in Nebraska, Although I have not necessarily previewed these, here are some additional books specifically about the history of quilting in Nebraska.
Nebraska Quilts and Quiltmakers by Patricia Cox Crews and Ronald C. Naugle
A Prairie Homecoming by Mary Obrist (Nebraska State Quilt Guild)
Sod House Treasures and Other Nebraska Quilt Patterns by Jan Stehlik
The International Quilt Study Center and Museum also has excellent online resources for exploring more. One of the quilters featured in the Home on the Plains book mentioned above is Grace Snyder. A whole online exhibit has been developed telling the story of how she has influenced quilting in Nebraska. They plan to add stories of more Nebraska quilters in the future.
P.S. If you enjoy reading fiction like I do, Stephanie Grace Whitson’s current Quilt Chronicles series features quilts as a backdrop. All three titles are written about Southeastern Nebraska and explain varying aspects of the pioneer culture. Based on experiences that were happening during the early settlements of the area, I would highly recommend each of them. Wonderful books to read! For a complete list of titles and to learn more about the author, please visit Stephanie Grace Whitson’s blog.