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‘Patterns of love’ exhibit on now

March 24, 2008

The display shows the evolution of quilting patterns through time

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

The Cokato Museum is excited to have on display, “Patterns of Love - traditional pieced quilt patterns from Grandma’s sewing basket,” now open.

Thirty-three quilts, from the collections of Ruth Christenson, Janice Severson, Colleen Nelson, Mary Ackerman, and the museum, are on display.

An array of time periods including the Depression Era, are represented in the exhibit, beginning in the 1880s, according to Colleen Nelson, who helped set up the display.

What has grown into a hobby today, started out more as a necessity for the early quilters of America. Quilts were used as a way of keeping warm during the cold winters.

Unlike the fabric stores of today, early quilters used remnants from old, out-grown clothing, sewing scraps and anything they could get their hands on, including fabric from seed sacks, Nelson said.

Some quilts on display show that these women made do with what they had, Nelson said.

Two of the quilts have a random piece with a different color or pattern not consistent with the rest of the pieces on the quilt. They simply ran out of the particular fabric they were working with.

Nelson used a quilt pattern encyclopedia with 5,500 different patterns to identify the patterns. Still, Nelson can’t identify some of the patterns used in the early quilts, she said.

“That’s when you use ‘variant’,” Nelson said.

Some of the patterns on display are the Windmill, which happens to be Nelson’s favorite, love in a mist, dresden plate, wedding ring, and grandmother’s flower garden.

Also on display are quilt blocks that are “orphans,” or projects that were never completed by the quilter.

Orphans can often be found at estate sales, garage sales, and antique shops.

“Or in one’s grandmother’s sewing basket,” Nelson said.

Audrey Tack, who also worked on the display, really likes the uniqueness of the “crazy quilts,” which became popular in the latter part of the 19th century

“They are amazing to me,” Tack said.

“Crazy” quilts were made popular by the Japanese, who used their own form of quilting, and were introduced to America in a Japanese Exhibit in 1876, at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, according to Judy Anne Brenaman at womenfolk.com.

These quilts used non-traditional fabric including silk, satin, and velvet. They also have unique stitching and top embroidery not found on traditional quilts.

One crazy quilt on display, made by Elsie Reed Gentry, a member of the Eastern Star, used ribbon from the Cokato Lodge and election propaganda of former Minnesota governor WR Merriam, who served from 1889-1893.

“It’s a true documentation of the history in Cokato,” Nelson said.

Nelson’s favorite type of quilt is the Depression quilt because it has so much character and color, she said.

What she finds most fascinating is that these women, during the early periods, were so busy with life and yet, they could produce something so beautiful in their spare time.

Also, these women had little, if any math schooling, yet there is so much geometry used in making the quilt patterns, Nelson said.

Many of the quilts on display show a lot of heavy use and wear, Nelson said.

Heavy-duty methods of cleaning were used during those periods.

Many times, if a person in the household was sick with cholera, diptheria, or typhoid, the water to clean the bedding would have to be boiling and include lye.

Patterns of Love’ exhibit now open

“Patterns of Love” will be on display at the Cokato Museum through Memorial Day and during its regular hours, which include Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.

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