August 21, 2013

Snowflake Quilt - part 1 The Story


This lovely quilt was made by Grace C. Powell in 1938-9 and given to her granddaughter Elaine on her 16th birthday. The current owner is Grace's great-granddaughter and Elaine's niece.  She has her great-grandmother's very detailed diaries, which are full of references to working on this quilt.

Grace moved from Minnesota to Oak Park, IL, to live with her sister Hattie in 1937 after her husband's death.  She turned 66 in 1938.

Diary entry on June 14, 1938:
     I went to Carson's and looked at quilts and shopped around then to Marshall Fields
     where we found same quilt a dollar higher.  .......and finally bot the quilt pattern at
     Carson's just before we left for home. ........ I felt well pleased with this. Quilt is appliqué
     pattern called Snowflake Block design.   I plan to have it for Elaine's graduation
     so gives me plenty of time to finish if all's well.

It cost $5.95. ($6.13 with tax).  I'm 99% sure that by "pattern" she means "kit."  Kit #00010 was published by the Paragon company in the late 1930s, the pattern known as Snowflake.  The price indicates that this was more than just a paper pattern.

This post by Nova Scotia Quilts details the pattern history. And here is a reproduction pattern that includes a similar snowflake block.  A very detailed article by Judi Fibush about quilt kits from many eras can be found here.

Diary entry on August 20, 1938, about a trip to Detroit:
     ........ We went thru Hudson's store.  I found same quilt that I bot so showed Mary.
     I also bot basting thread 1200 yds 25 cts extra soft.

Grace doesn't mention working on the quilt until September 5, when she writes about cutting out the blocks.  There follow multiple entries that say she is "working on a block."  When the top was completed, the quilt was quilted on a frame in her relative Doris's attic.  She sometimes just kept on quilting and stayed overnight there.

Diary entry on November 3, 1939:
     Began quilting on September 20, and had it off frames November 3. I put in 16 1/2 days, Hattie 
     [her sister, who quilted regularly at her church] put in 11 days, and Mrs. Marcus one day.

She continued working on the quilt, presumably finishing the edges.  They are done with a knife-edge finish.

Diary entry on December 9, 1939:
     I went to work on quilt about 11 o'clock, and again after lunch, and finished about 4 o'clock, 
     having looked over thoroughly.  Began it in Sept 1939 and the last stitches put on it today. 
     It has become like an old friend. I have so enjoyed working on it.
     cost
     First cost  5.95
     lining       2.00
     middling    .62
     thread        .40  
                     8.97

Grace got it all done well ahead of Elaine's graduation date, and gifted it to Elaine on her 16th birthday in March 1940 instead.  By June 1940 Grace had returned to live with her son in northern Minnesota.  According to her journal, her quilt was entered in the Marshall county fair June 26-27, 1940, in Warren Minnesota where it won first prize.

Grace was very proud of her quilt.  The diary tells us that at one point, she cleaned up the house for some sort of meeting, and mentions putting Elaine's quilt on her own bed.  Then she notes "but nobody came upstairs," sounding rather disappointed.

As you will see, the appliqué and quilting are both masterfully done, so Grace's love of quiltmaking really shows.

The quilt was stored in a trunk, moved twice long distances without opening it, for probably thirty years.  It was discovered in 1996 with a prominent iron scorch mark (no one recalls when this happened), and gifted to the current owner, Grace's great-granddaughter. She likes to cover herself with it on chilly winter days.  She went back to Grace's journals when she started the process of having the quilt repaired, and carefully researched its story. The owner told me that reading the diaries and learning about the quiltmaking process has made the quilt feel like an old friend for her, too.  Lovely!

A description of the repair work I did will come in the next post, part 2.

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