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Manufacture of handmade quilts in 1933

In the spring of 1933, my great-grandmother, Effie Bernice Hunt, began a labor of love at her kitchen table: a 25-week long, handmade quilt-making project featuring 25 appliquéd quilt blocks. Each handmade quilt block featured a different flower beloved of the Pacific Northwest and ranged from camellia to gladiolus to bluebells. The patterns were published weekly in the Sunday Oregonian newspaper. A full 60 years later, I assembled those flimsy handmade quilt blocks from polished cotton in the gorgeous “Modern Flower Applique Quilt” finish. Effie had carefully tucked instructions between the full appliqué quilt blocks for final quilt assembly. What a beautiful handmade quilt and what a portrait of the past he left me!

Family history has it that Effie’s heart or handcrafted quilt-making operation, and she made many appliqué quilts and patchwork quilts, was at the kitchen table across from her beloved huge radio set parked just outside. in the middle of everything. My particular appliqué quilt gradually appeared on a weekly basis beginning in the spring of 1933. Although the whole family’s life revolved around that “command center” in the kitchen, my father remembers being thrown out to play when his Grandma claimed her “alone time.” .” The kitchen became resolutely off-limits, except for handmade quilt-making and radio time!

Effie set aside this time each day to work on the weekly handmade quilt block, soak up her favorite soap operas, and listen to the latest world news. She is remembered as a history buff and news junkie! Imagine some of the conscience sewn into my handmade quilt: In 1933 Hitler became German Chancellor, the Nazis began their reign of terror, Franklin D. Roosevelt took office as President of the United States, and the New Deal was launched. Postage on a letter was only 3 cents back then too!

Then, on May 28, 1933, the Sunday newspaper published the first weekly appliqué quilt block pattern: “The Tulip.” “associated with Holland and spring and the brightness of the hue…the tulip can become one of the most colorful in the quilt.” Beige or black were the suggested color choices for the base of the handmade quilt blocks and I love how she chose black. The colors of the flowers are so vivid and striking against this background that they literally jump off the appliqued bedspread.

Applique Quilt Block #5: “La Capuchina” was released on Sunday June 25th. It represents two stimulated yellow flowers with a front view and a side view. My favorite part of this handmade quilt block is the three plump, round leaves that are so relatable to the nasturtium plant. I have grown these flowers for years because they are delicious to eat in salads!

Applique Quilt Block #10: “The Bluebell” was released on Sunday July 30th. The quilter is advised to make the blue bells light in color to show through and the stitching a darker blue. The stitching used to connect the bells to the stem and form the stamens should be orange. For some reason, Effie didn’t connect the bells to the orange-stitched stem, instead leaving them free-floating. Maybe this was more modern for her?

Nearly two months later, on October 1st, Applique Quilt Block #19: “The Morning Glory” was released. The designer of the handmade quilt wrote that this flower was included “…to allow the wearer of the appliqué quilt pulling out with the poppy (handmade quilt block #16) to greet the day with morning glory! Following in Effie’s footsteps and being a history buff, I can imagine that while sewing this handmade quilt block, Effie might have been listening to the news about the repeal of prohibition, what a contrast!

So here’s just a little historical vignette from the personal context of my great grandmother and the art of handmade quilt making in the 1930’s. What a wonderful gift and historical portrait Effie left behind. I feel so lucky to gaze upon this beautiful “Modernist Flower Applique Quilt” daily and remember her life and her world as she knew it.

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