Friday, December 4, 2009

Prairie Children Challenge

My yahoo group, SmallQuiltTalk, is doing a Winter doll quilt challenge, after the holidays, choosing quilt patterns from my 2nd book, Prairie Children & Their Quilts. This is going to be fun, I think. And if I hadn't already made all the quilts and quite a few duplicates, I'd join in too! I'm excited to see how some of the quilts turn out. Based on the other challenges we've done, every quilt is likely to be unique because each quilter uses the challenge to make the quilt "her own."

The book was inspired by children's diaries from the 19th century written on or about the trail west and is full of doll quilts made from traditional patterns using blocks that were popular at that time.

Pioneers traveled in covered wagons called Prairie Schooners, large wagons with canvas and frames covering them. The wagons were what the families called home for months. Everything a family needed was carried in these wagons—food, pots and pans, bedding for an entire family. Clothing was placed in trunks and breakables were wrapped in quilts for safeguarding.

Since examples of doll quilts from the 1800s are rare, the quilts were made using my "creative imagination." I wondered what kinds of little quilts some of these little girls may have made and used reproduction fabrics to create designs from blocks like Broken Dishes, Log Cabin and Little Red Schoolhouse.

Schoolgirl Sampler


Doll quilts were made by young girls as practice for later sewing skills. When weather did not permit travel, women and girls whiled away the time in the wagons using up scraps from worn dresses and shirts to sew quilts.

Friendship Star

I love basket quilts and when I saw a photo of a large indigo and chrome yellow basket quilt in a book on antique quilts, I knew I had to make my own really simple little one using those same colors.

One of my favorite quilts from the book is this quirky little African-American doll quilt. African-American quilts from the nineteenth century were noted for their eclectic style, bright colors and asymmetrical pieces, obviously influenced by African design traditions. I had so much fun poking through my scraps to make this quilt and eventually made 4 of them! It was definitely a creative experience that pushed me beyond my usual "comfortable" designs to make a quilt unlike any other I've ever made. It's 15"  x  15".

My son was reading Beloved  in high school English at the time (Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel based on the impact of slavery and the emancipation of slaves on individual black people) and seeing the impact the book had on him and talking about it with him was what made me want to include this quilt in the book.


Two of the most common items young girls brought with them on the trip west were their dolls and diaries. Dolls were among a young girl's most cherished possessions and were probably chosen for the comfort they provided on the long journey and when faced with sadness at leaving behind their homes and cherished friends.


My kids really inspired me when I was writing this book. Here's a picture of my very own "prairie children" peeking out from a log cabin at a historical prairie settlement one summer quite a few years ago. They're much older now but it's still one of my favorite photos of the two of them together.

 I love the back of this book almost as much as the front cover!


Karen said...

I love this book and am gathering my fabrics together to make the little quilts from this book. It is something I've been wanting to do for awhile now and I finally have the time. Then I will move on to the quilts in Remembering Adelia. I would love to see the other three African American quilts you did.

Kathleen Tracy said...

Actually, the other 3 quilts are the same. I made copies of that one for trunk shows to send to quilt shops to help me promote the book.

Yay for you! I think it's really cool to have a plan to make all of the quilts. Join our small quilt group so we can see them, or are you already a member?

Anonymous said...

I think I finally figured out how to use this post a comment section. I am challenged technically as you know. I like old fashioned ways to communicate I guess.
Your pictures are beautiful and I especially love the one of your kids.

Kathleen Tracy said...

Dear Anonymous, who are you, LOL??

Anonymous said...

It is me...Julia. I still can't post a comment without it saying anonyymous.

Kathleen Tracy said...

Julia, welcome to quilting cyberspace! Just sign your name at the end then I'll know who it is. Or you can sign up for a Google account for free and have a cute little picture when you post.

Shasta Matova said...

It's a great book - with so many wonderful quilts and stories in it.

Anonymous said...

I purchased Prairie Children and Their Quilts and made the one that's in the center of the front cover with the verse. We were highschool girlfriends and are now 64 years old, living 850 miles from each other. She was so emotional that I made something with my own hands to remind her that she is still my BFF. We never feel like strangers and can talk on the phone for hours. Thank you so much for reminding many of us how our ancestors sacrificed so much to live the "American Dream." Linda from Arkansas


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