D: Depression Era Quilts
I doubt the people that lived through the Depression and Post-Depression years think fondly of that time of their life. Survival was difficult. Families lost fortunes, farms and housing. People learned to get by and make do with what they had. Maybe that’s why I feel drawn to that era. I admire the strength and fortitude that I see, looking back from my place many years in the future.
I love quilts from that period. I like the fabrics, the patterns, and especially those using feed sacks. I have a small collection of depression era quilts, quilt tops, aprons, and a few feed sack towels from way back.
The best ‘find’ I’ve come across was a set of 30 quilt blocks made in 1934. They were at a yard sale in California about ten years ago and I snatched them up as quickly as I saw them. They had names embroidered on the muslin blocks and were embellished with calico scraps forming Sunbonnet Sues and Overall Bills. It took several years before I could track down some of the names and discovered that the people that made these squares came from a small Iowa town. Athelstan straddled the Iowa/Missouri border and, except for a few dilapidated buildings and a handful of residents, doesn’t exist anymore.
The quilt blocks now live in the Taylor County Historical Museum, about 20 miles from where they were created. I took the squares to Iowa last summer and met some of the descendants of the women and young girls that made these squares in 1934. Meeting these women, with Iowa hearts as big as the corn fields that surround them, was a highlight I will never forget. Because of these 80 year old squares, I have new friends and a new adopted family.
Next time you see an old Depression-era quilt, stop and think for a moment about the woman that sat stitching away, sewing a blanket to keep her family warm, with whatever materials she could use. And if you’re in the neighborhood of southern Iowa, stop by and take a peek at these footprints from the past.