Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Meaning of Quilts by Linda K. Hubalek

By definition, a quilt is a coverlet or blanket made of two layers of fabric with a layer of cotton, wool, feathers, or down in between, all stitched firmly together, usually in a decorative crisscross design. The top layer may be a single piece of fabric, or it may be a made from a variety of scraps of material that were pieced together to form blocks, that are then sewn together to make the top layer.
Antique quilt made by author's great grandmother, Kizzie Pieratt
When one thinks of pieced quilts, pioneer women automatically come to mind. This group of women often had to move, start new households, and work with what they had on hand. Their quilts would have been used daily, made and patched to last through the rigors of pioneer life.
Trail of Thread series, featuring the author's descendants' first years in Kansas, 1854-1865.

For example, Deborah and John Pieratt, featured in the first book of my Trail of Thread series, left Kentucky in 1854 when the Territory of Kansas was formed. They were part of the thousands of families that packed wagons and headed east for the promise of a new life. Quilts would have been used for bedding—in the wagon or on the ground, as a hanging shelter, or as a partition for privacy. They were also used for burial of loved ones along the trail.

Margaret Ralston Kennedy
Thimble of Soil, the second book in the series, features Margaret Ralston Kennedy. She was a widow who moved with eight of her thirteen children from Ohio to the Territory Kansas in 1855. She was dedicated to the cause of the North, and helped with the Underground Railroad in both Ohio and Kansas. It is possible that some of the quilts she made had special blocks giving direction to runaway slaves.

Orphaned Maggie Kennedy, portrayed in Stitch of Courage, the last book in the series, followed her brothers to Kansas looking for a better life as the states fought out the history of the Civil War. Women made and gave quilts for the soldiers to use during their journeys and battles.

Maggie Kennedy Pieratt
What was the meaning for all these quilts? They were all just fabric to provide warmth and protection, but they also connected the hearts and souls of the past, present, and future.

The young woman on the trail packed quilts to use, but also to bring memories of her family left behind to her new frontier home.

The older woman—who stitched directions in her quilt that hung outside to air— gave freedom to people trying to escape a bad life.

The soldier wrapped in a dirty quilt, trying to keep warm and get a bit of sleep, was given the security of knowing that someone from home was thinking of him and waiting for his return.
Quilt passed down through author's family, circa 1830s

Think of the countless hours of work and devotion it took to create these pioneer quilts. These finished masterpieces of the fingers gave a sense of accomplishment to the makers, and comfort and connection to the users.

Do you have a special quilt passed down through your family? What does it mean to you?


  1. Hi Linda. I love quilts and when my mother in law passed away she had probably 15 quilts stored away in quilt boxes. She'd given us several in our early marriage years so we selected a pretty one for each of our children and the one grandchild at the time. The rest we took to a family reunion and let all the nieces pick what they wanted. I've really had to school my daughter on how much their worth though and how to take care of them. Lovely post.

  2. Thanks, Linda. I don't think the younger generation realizes the hours it took to make quilts years ago, but hopefully they'll realize the work and love put into each special quilt. Thanks for leaving a comment.

  3. What a lovely post. My mother was a quilter, and she made at least five quilts for each of us three girls. That's when we all had double beds and used them. I loved the heavy weight of them on this day, I can't get warm unless my cover is "heavy." My quilts..when we got Queen sized beds, they became foot warmers folded on the end on the bed. When our son went to graduate school in MI, I sent three of those with him..worn with so much use. They were stolen out of his room the first week.
    I love the book Texas Tears and Texas Sunshine--Voices of Frontier Women. It tells about these women somewhat like your books do. These are the names of quilt patterns, and in the book the author adds two others: Log Cabin and Lone Star. The names of these quilts became the title for the four sections of Texas history in the book.
    I love the photos, Linda. Just wonderful.
    (Please add your name to the beginning of the Linda...
    so the reader won't have to scroll to the bottom to learn who is writing this.
    I enjoyed this so much.
    P.S. I made one quilt in my life. I was ten years old and made a doll quilt about the size of a desk top. I pieced it like Mother showed me, and using batting and a backing, and quilted it. Okay, it's a little catty-whompered, but today the 65 year old quilt is a covering for my 1958 cedar chest. I'm so nostalgic about stuff.

  4. I finally got a chance to read your blog, Linda. I love quilts and the names they have. My grandmother made quilts for each of us grandkids. Mine had kittens sleeping in baskets. I took that quilt with me everywhere in my wagon. Unfortunately, I had my wagon parked too close to my friend's dad who was burning leaves one day. Some of the coals got on my quilt and burned it. My oldest sister had one with old fashioned ladies. Each of their aprons had a pocket in which my grandmother put a penny. How cool is that? Of course, my sister removed all the pennies first thing and bought candy.
    Anyway, I loved your blog and the name of your series. I wish you every success and I apologize for getting here late.


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