Posts Tagged With: Quilt

Friday Flashback: Using Quilts to Interpret Nebraska History

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 …

  1. Arriving
  2. Settling In
  3. Staying On
  4. 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.

Quilt Chronicles Collage

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.


Categories: Flashback Fridays, Lincoln, Metro, Recommended Reading, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Grandma Michels: My Family Quilting Heritage Part 2

Slightly less than a year ago, we said our earthly good-byes to my grandmother.  She survived a few months past the century mark, and she was ready to go Home.  I am so glad all of our children were able to meet her.

Grandma and the kids

She adored her great grandchildren.  I think that was a surprise to her.  After all, on the way to the hospital to meet my oldest son, she had this conversation with my sister.

Sheila: “Grandma, are you excited to meet your first great-grandchild?”

Grandma: “I don’t know.  I wasn’t that excited about meeting you kids for the first time.”

Gee, thanks, Grandma.  My Grandma was definitely honest.  Maybe a bit much so at times, especially in her later years.  Thankfully we could usually laugh at her comments.  She was in her 60’s when I first met her.  Much more active and into lots of projects.  Including a beautiful flower garden.  And into making quilts.  Lots of them!

Grandma star quilt

When I was around 12, I decided that I wanted to make a quilt with her.  So, she let me pick out fabric scraps.   I started sewing and sewing and sewing.  For a few hours I kept at it.  Then suddenly having my own homemade quilt no longer mattered.  That was hard work.  Below is pictured my one and only quilt.  Yes, the small sorry looking squares that would have looked even more pathetic if my Grandma had not kindly sewed on backing.  I did not exactly inherit her sewing skills.


I managed to “quilt” 16 whole squares before quitting.

Thankfully my Grandma kept on with her quilts.  We have a wonderful collection of family heirlooms.  A quilt is truly a work of art.

Grandma's Quilts

When we were teenagers, we requested that Grandma make each of a quilt for a wedding present someday.  She lived long enough to personally present each of us with that gift.  My butterfly quilt is hanging on a special quilt rack in our daughter’s room,so I see the masterpiece often.  (And I have already had to explain to my daughter that the quilt is not going with her someday, at least not right away! 🙂

Grandma's Quilt Gifts

I am thankful that my Grandma invested her time into leaving pieces of herself and the past into gifts that will last.  I am even more thankful that she invested her lives in us.  And her prayers – that is really what has kept us from unraveling over the years.  I miss her!

thankful tree

Categories: Lewis and Clark, Nebraska History, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Holens: My Family Quilting Heritage Part 1

I never had the privilege of meeting my Great Grandma Holen, although I have seen her handiwork.  I know I adored her daughter, and she was a wonderful grandmother to me for the over 30 years that I had the privilege of interacting with her.  Marvel Ellen DeLoris Holen Gustafson was her long name for a little lady.  My daughter often reminds me of her – one of the many things I love about my little girl.  My grandma was the youngest and had many older brothers and only one older sister.

Well, evidently my Great Grandma Holen was  a resourceful woman.  When you have lots of sons, what do you do with their neckties? Why you quilt with them of course.  This must have been a quilt that she did not quite complete because at one point my Grandma gathered with her siblings, and they all finished the project.

Holen Quilt

Eventually the family quilt was donated to the Phelps County Museum in Southwestern Nebraska.  The story of the quilt might have just been family history if not for one group of travelers.  The ones who were looking for pioneer quilts and happened to choose the Holen quilt as one of several to feature in a book.

This beautiful hardcover book by Sandi Fox features many family quilts including the one made by my Great Grandmother Holen and her children.

Oh and the book was written to reflect all of the quilts to be on display at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in Washington D.C. for a limited time.  Since our family quilt was traveling there, a large group of us decided to go as well.  93 of us to be precise.  We had a marvelous time traveling about the D.C. area and then spent several hours looking at all of the display quilts.  And taking LOTS of pictures with the family quilt.

Holen Quilt with Michels family

Here is my family with the quilt (back in the day of 3 kids)!  We all wore “Where’s Waldo” type scarves to designate family members.  They were very fun!

I may eventually post more pictures from that trip – one of my favorites ever.  We all wore matching scarves and were quite the tourists.  While we all are descended from the same family, we now lived in many different places.  This trip gave us a chance to connect.  The next place the Holens plan to descend upon is the Big Apple.  I am hoping that my husband and the kids and I can go.  Would be a great adventure with my family that I love!

thankful tree

Categories: Nebraska History, Prairie Lakes, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Inspired by the International Quilt Study Center and Museum: Reading to Kids About Quilts

As you may have gathered from previous posts, one of my favorite things to do with my kids is read books with them.  From my years of being a classroom teacher and now a homeschool mom, I have compiled a plethora of book lists.  (In fact, on occasion a librarian has been known to ask me to suggest a title for a particular need during one of of our weekly library visits.)  I could probably be considered a book collector too with having probably a few thousand books.  I love to read on my own and to my children.

So naturally, if I want to introduce a topic to my kids, books are often involved.  Especially fictional ones as hearing a story often helps in relating and  remembering.  So, without further explanation, here are just some of my favorite books to read to children on the topic of quilts.  Many of these books might be found at local libraries, and all of the cover pictures were taken from Amazon.

A great introduction to words.

And an introduction to numbers by the same author/illustrator combination.


Cover Image

By Tony Johnston and Tomie dePaola – wonderful author/excellent illustrator

Cover Image

While her books tend to be longer, you can never go wrong with Patricia Polacco!

Cover Image

Old and new adventures.

Cover Image

The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills – a wonderful story about contentment and gratitude.

Cover Image

Deborah Honkinson’s books provide a wonderful history background for the Underground Railroad – a time when the shape and patterns of quilts took on a new significance.

Paulette Bourgeois’ story about life’s transitions.

I hope that one of the books on the list will become a new family favorite.

4 being thankful

I planned on putting a picture on each one of my November posts stating what I am grateful for.  I did not remember to do that on my first two posts – how quickly I forget.  So, I will be going back and adding what I am grateful for.    Because I really do want to be more thankful – blessings abound in my life.






Categories: Nebraska History, Recommended Reading | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Friday with Kids: Experiencing the International Quilt Study Center and Museum with Kids

Other than as bed coverings, one does not often think of quilts in conjunction with kids.  The International Quilt Study Center and Museum would like to change that.  And I think their quest has been successful so far.

Quilt folder

First of all, every child that visits can pick up a free folder that contains activities that correlates to the latest exhibits.  The current activities include a “Quilt Blocks” word search to find such terms as “Log Cabin” and “Flying Geese” with correlating pictures.  Going along with “The Secrets in Stitches” exhibit, the child can do a dot-to-dot that reveals a hidden shape.  Every time the students can choose to find their favorite quilt, describe it and even draw a picture to commit the quilt to memory.

Quilt Activity Center

An activity table with rotating projects sits out in the commons area.  (No, there are not crayons available in the actual quilt areas! So, moms, you can relax!  🙂  )

Quilt cart

While children cannot interact with the display quilts, the museum does not leave kinesthetic children behind.  A rolling cart is filled with activities that allow tactile learners to touch various types of quilts.  Piecing, applique, quilted and finished materials can be found in each mini drawer.  Not to mention quilt foam puzzles where each child can “create” a temporary masterpiece.

Other fun things about the museum:

The area full of doll quilts and furniture on the 3rd floor.    A few books and even a puzzle or two also can be found in this “research” area.

I must confess that one of my kids’ favorite parts of the museum does not involve fabric of any kind.

Quilt stairs

My kids love the stairs.  And I also must confess that if no one else is around, I might let them go up the stairs at a pace that is faster than a walk.

As far as the displays, children can actually visualize more in the pieces than what we give them credit for.  When I took my kids this summer, my daughter noticed shapes that I did not initially see (and a nearby quilt expert confirmed that she was correct).  My older kids enjoy the quilts without much explanation.  With younger kids, I try to play “I Spy” to keep them engaged.

Quilts stars and shapes

What shapes can you spy?  What colors can you see?  Easy questions for us, but they

You can even give your child an introduction to quilts before you visit.  Check out the online quilt explorer where you can “interact” with over 1,000 online quilts.  You can even “make your own” quilt online.   And if you happen to be a parent or an educator, you can also download curriculum, lesson plans and ideas on making the museum come alive for children.  Information is also available online for school group tours as well.  The website is full of ideas and information about quilts!

Quilts Lighted Sculpture

My kids also notice the beautiful outdoors statue every time we drive by.  When the intricate white sculpture is illuminated at night, the piece is even more lovely.  Tonight is the perfect night to see the place in person.  As I mentioned yesterday, the International Quilt Study Center and Museum is open later tonight.  You have an hour left to explore.  (Sorry – I meant to post this earlier, but I had outdoor clean-up to do today! 🙂

4 being thankful

And in case you want to check out other First Friday art walk events taking place in both Lincoln and Omaha, here are a bunch of links …

First Friday Information from the Lincoln Arts Council

First Friday in Downtown Lincoln

First Friday in the Lincoln Haymarket

First Friday in the Omaha Old Market

Omaha First Friday

Categories: Lincoln "Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown", Metro, Passport Pursuit Programs, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Preserving Patchwork: International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska

Quilt Building

Name/Location International Quilt Study Center and Museum 33rd & Holdrege in Lincoln, NE
Open hours/Contacts Tues.-Sat. 10-4; Summer Sundays 1-4: 402-472-6549;  Facebook
Cost Adults: $6; Children (5-18): $3; Families: $12; UNL Students/Faculty: Free
What to Know Open the first Friday of each month from 4:30-7 with free admission & activities
Group Tours T-S @ 11 a.m.; Sat. @ 1 p.m. also; Reserved Group & Educational Tours
Museum Manners NO TOUCHING the quilts; no flash photography in quilt areas
Recommended Ages Any age with supervision; Ages 5 and up will enjoy the exhibits more

Quilt 2 patch

How much piecin’ a quilt is like livin’ a life! You can give the same kind of pieces to two persons, and one will make a “nine-patch” and one’ll make a “wild goose chase, ” and there will be two quilts made out of the same kind of pieces, and jest as different as they can be. And that is jest the way with livin’. The Lord sends us the pieces, but we cut them out and put ’em together pretty much to suit ourselves, and there’s a heap more in the cuttin’ out and the sewin’ than there is in the caliker.

Eliza Calvert Hall in “Aunt Jane of Kentucky”

The first time I went into this museum, I knew this was a Nebraska Treasure.  And this was even before they moved into the building that they are in now – the glass masterpiece that houses the world’s largest and longest dating collection of quilts.  You see, my paternal grandmother was a quilter.  While I definitely lack the sewing gene, I have a deep appreciation for those who can do handiwork.   (My poor skills are evidenced in the “repairs” that I have attempted on various items of clothing  And this is after attempting home economics several times!)  But, quilts evoke cozy memories, and I am so thankful that my grandmother’s quilts remain even as she no longer is with us.  I also have a special quilting story on my maternal side that I am planning to write more about soon!  Suffice it to say, I am grateful for the efforts of those who strive to preserve this important part of history.

Quilts 5 purposes arch

The International Quilt Study Center and Museum has been developed with five purposes in mind.

1)Collecting 2) Preserving 3) Studying 4) Exhibiting 5) Discovering

Quilts 5 purposes posters

There is a display that explains the details of what each area encompasses.

To protect the quilts, each exhibit only lasts for several months.  Although the quilts are carefully protected, too much exposure can weaken them.

Quilt Displays

These are the three exhibits that are on display in the three main galleries.  The exhibitions are on display for varying times.

Posing with Patchwork has to do with antique photographs that happen to contain quilts.  This is a video montage that the museum has compiled on the display.

If you thought that quilts are only for women, you were wrong.  This section is devoted to the extensive collection of Ernest B. Haight, a Nebraska engineer who did much to develop the preciseness of machine quilting.  All of my kids enjoyed this room – there is something pleasing about the geometric exactness of these quilts.

Quilt Room Displays

The last exhibit just opened recently and will last for several months.  These masterpieces need to be seen in person as pictures definitely do not tell the whole story.

Quilt Whole Story

In case you would like to know more about these fabric works of art, there is a special section devoted to what all cannot be easily seen.  In fact, the museum even offers afternoon tours specifically for this section of the museum if you arrange them at least a week in advance.

Quilt behind the scenes

If you would like to see more quilts from the museum displays of past and present, you can visit Photographs from the International Quilt Study Center and Museum.  This is truly an amazing place that everyone should experience often.  One of the goals of this museum is to be child friendly.  In an upcoming post, I will be discussing just how they go about accomplishing this.

Categories: Lincoln, Metro, Nebraska History | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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