Quilt history books share stories – here are three fascinating tales from the past

Coxcomb blockAre you a history buff? We covet quilt-history books, and we’ve published several books about quilt history, one with the help of our friends at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska, American Quilt Treasures. We want to know all we can about our sewing sisters from the past!

Most of the quilts featured in American Quilt Treasures don’t have full written histories to go with them—their stories are found only in the stitches the makers took. But a few of the quilts from this beautiful hardcover book do have written stories. And we’re happy to share those stories with you today.

Trip around the World

Made in Kansas City, Kansas, circa 1900, 80″ × 88″. Ida Pricilla Williams Giebner.

This incredible hand-pieced, hand-quilted quilt features a label printed on fabric, which was made by a family member in 2010.

Trip around the World quilt

The label says:

29 Jan 1873 (?) – 25 Feb 1942

Born in Missouri, she lived all her adult life in Kansas City, KS, and is buried in Memorial Park Cemetery, Wyandotte County, Kansas City, KS. Her actual birth date and birthplace are unknown. She had three children with her first husband, John Albert Giebner. Two sons lived into adulthood.

It is known that she was multi-talented as a quilter and seamstress – possibly how she supported her family. One family photo shows her crocheting. Family history says that this quilt was finished about 1900. The design is Trip around the World, or sometimes referred to as Postage Stamp. It is hand pieced and hand quilted from the back. Looking closely at the quilting, you can see flowers placed randomly and a double ribbon just inside the border all around. This is not a beginner’s quilt but no other examples of hers are known. [Label by Green H. Giebner, Jr., Nov 2010]

Detail of Trip around the World quilt

Kansas Sunflower Four Generation Quilt

Made in Gothenburg, Nebraska, dated 1905–1965, 89″ × 89″. Multiple makers.

This English-paper-pieced quilt was made by four generations of quiltmakers, spanning the years 1905-1965.

Kansas Sunflower Four Generation Quilt

The label includes the makers’ photographs, and says:

Mary Abercrombie 1832-1909
This quilt was pieced by Mary Adams Abercrombie some time before her husband died in 1907. The pattern is the Kansas Sunflower or Noonday. Made no doubt from the scrap bag pieces.

Ella Abercrombie 1867-1963
Ella Abercrombie Harnan set the circles in red, then sashed the top. Date unknown. She chose the red, green, and orange fabrics.

Ruth Gutherless 1904-2004
Ruth Harnan Gutherless held a quilting bee in her home to quilt this piece. Notice the different size stitches. About 1940.

Gayle LaGrand 1932-
The quilt was given to me by my mother to bind. I did this about 1965. At the time we lived in Minn.

Detail of Kansas Sunflower quilt

The Reconciliation Quilt

Made in Brooklyn, New York, dated 1867, 85″ × 97″. Lucinda Ward Honstain.

Named at a later date, the Reconciliation Quilt depicts many family members of the quiltmaker—her husband, brother, daughter, and son-in-law. The quilt derives its name from a block depicting the “reconciliation” between Jefferson Davis and his daughter following his release from prison after the Civil War. The quilt held the record for the most ever spent for a quilt at auction at the time of its purchase in 1991— $264,000.

The Reconciliation QUilt

You can find more detailed information about this incredible quilt at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum’s website. Here are close-up photos of just a few of the 40 blocks, each telling its own story:

Detail of Reconciliation Quilt

American Quilt TreasuresInside American Quilt Treasures, you’ll take a fascinating behind-the-scenes journey through a curated collection of quilts housed at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, the largest publicly held quilt collection in the world. The museum graciously allowed Martingale to photograph 65 one-of-a-kind quilts, ranging from just 30 years old to an incredible 197 years old. Prepare to be whisked away by astonishing patchwork and awe-inspiring appliqué from the past, all captured in lavish, detailed photography.

And one more thing these stories might inspire you to do: label your quilts! Get inspired to create one-of-a-kind labels with help from these two resources:

What kind of history buff are you? Quilting, textiles, the Civil War, world history? Tell us in the comments!

21 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I have quite a few quilt history books but am also interested in all history.

    —Peggy on May 20, 2019
  • I love old quilts. My maternal great grandmother and grandmother were avid quilters. They would quilt all winter when my great grandmother would live with my grandmother. They made mostly crazy patchwork ones in 16 inch squares. Many need to be put together. I display them to enjoy and so other family members can appreciate them.

    —Donna K on May 20, 2019
  • I own this book and love it for it’s inspiration and information. It’s wonderful to see these beautiful quilts made before coordinated fabric lines and modern tools were available.

    —Karen D Martin on May 20, 2019
  • Quilting history books are treasures to the connections of "threads" to the past–the patterns, fabric, quilts, and quilts – one world.

    —carol on May 20, 2019
  • I love quilt history, those ladies must have had a lot of time on their hands. I always label my quilts.

    —Stephanie Woodward on May 20, 2019
  • I would have to say the stories and picture of civil war quilts. I also enjoy stories about the travel of people "out West" and how their quilts were made or made the move with them.

    —Patty F. on May 20, 2019
  • I love to read about nearly all historical things, and quilt history is one of my favorites!

    —Amanda Best on May 20, 2019
  • I have many quilt history books. I love to look at them and wonder about the quilt maker who put her love in the stitches. I love the designs too. It shows how quilters were inspired with beauties like the Reconciliation Quilt and quilts like Sunflower where she may have used her scraps.

    My husband and I are Civil War history buffs.

    —Barb Walsh on May 20, 2019
  • I am interested in history! Period! All history! Majored in history.

    —Geri on May 20, 2019
  • The civil war is my passion. I also just love reproduction, civil war fabric. It’s my favorite. The many, many sacrifices by the men and women during that time period are truly appreciated. And to think we could have been a divided country. Here in Michigan we celebrate The Civil War Remembrance at the Henry Ford, Greenfield Village every year during Memeorial Weekend. It’s an amazing experience!

    Dolores Roberts on May 20, 2019
  • I love learning about all types of history. Quilt history is a great way to study what made women who came before us do what they did. So much fun going through quilt history books.

    —Ann West on May 20, 2019
  • All of the above! Love quilts, history, fabrics, and all eras of the past. This is a great post, thank you for sharing. This book is on my "Please, Santa?" list now!

    —Jacque on May 20, 2019
  • Civil War, English and Russian. Love civil war and 30’s reproduction fabrics.

    —Linda Lee Ahn on May 21, 2019
  • My sister and I were on a road trip last year and spent some time at the quilt museum. Loved it!

    —Sylvia L on May 24, 2019
  • I LOVE the history behind old quilts. What cherished memories are told in some of your books! This looks like a wonderful one.

    —Kyra Franz on May 24, 2019
  • I am into the history of the Civil War. Born in Kansas and live in Nebraska I would love to read more about the makers of all of these quilts.

    kathy on May 24, 2019
  • I’m afraid I’m just a casual history buff … whatever piques my interest at a particular point. It’s all fascinating, isn’t it?

    —bookboxer on May 24, 2019
  • I love to reed about the history behind the quilts

    —Rommy van Houten on May 24, 2019
  • We are never too old to learn; and the history of quilts and their makers is so intriguing.

    —Nancy Dumeny on May 24, 2019
  • History is necessary, informative, and inspiring… I’m caught up in Civil War history due to where I’ve lived for the past 40 yrs, the metro Atlanta area. The history of states is also fascinating.

    —Kay on May 24, 2019
  • I love history. I do a lot of genealogy research.

    —donna on May 28, 2019

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