Quilting Parties

Feature Story November 2006
Quilting Parties
( by Susan Heim Little, Williamsport, Pa.)
(published in the Folklore of The Pennsylvania Colony of Nebraska, complied and edited by the late Elma Heim Griffiths, 1955)
In the early days the social life in a community such as Blooming Grove, centered around the school and the church, and also in neighborly helpfulness.  If anyone in the neighborhood was unfortunate enough to be ill, at once the men and boys went to the place and did what was to be done, corn, cutting, threshing, a wood cutting bee in winter.  The women sometimes helped care for the sick and had days of sewing for the family.
   But quilting parties were by invitation.  Every girl when married was supposed to have a least ten quilts in her “Hope Chest.”  She really had a chest too, to put them into, home made chest by some skilled man in the neighborhood, but good and strong and spacious.  These quilts were of various designs.  The one perhaps most common was the “Nine Patch.”  It was probably the one she made first when she was just a little girl of eight often.  Little girls started early to learn the art of sewing and a quilt of sampler was most often the first thing she made, liberally sprinkled with tears because it just wouldn’t go right or her thread knotted. Or the out-of- doors called but she must do her “stint,” first.  Then there were the Star, Wedding Ring, Sugar Bowl, Dresden Plate, Wanders Path, Through the Wilderness, Grandmother’s Flower Garden, Rainbow, Round The World, Dunkard’s Path, and Necktie patterns.  The Crazy Quilt made of hit and miss pieces of various shapes and was often the one with the most work put on it as it was often embroidered with all the kinds of stitches known, such as the Feather Stitch, Rope Stitch, Fagot Stitch, and many more.

  When one of these quilts was ready with lining and cotton it was put in frames, stretched out in the largest room in the house.  About ten women would work at first until the quilt was rolled to smaller size.  Usually a quilt was finished in a day, taking time out for a big dinner provided by the hostess.

   Sometimes the girls had the party among themselves and it was a custom, when the quilt was finished and taken from the frames, for all the girls to hold the quilt all around the edges.  The pet cat was then brought in and dropped on the quilt and given a good shaking.  The girl toward whom the cat jumped to get off the quilt was destined to be the next one married.  Lots of teasing and laughter went with this proceeding.

   The girls stayed for supper and somehow the boys always knew where the girls were and came in the evening to escort “Nellie Home,” after spending some time in games and singing.

   Material for the quilt pieces were remnants left over from our home made dresses.   Sometimes pieces were exchanged with others for variety.
   Before Aunt Regina Heim (Mrs. Jacob G. Heim) moved to Nebraska in 1874 her sisters and cousins made her a quilt containing pieces of their dress materials.  She told mother that often when she was a bit homesick, she looked over the quilt and thought of the homefolks.  She was indeed a pioneer and possibly even the quilt helped her a little.

(This book of 60 stories can be purchased and enjoyed by ordering from the “for sale” link on this web site.)