Thursday, February 20, 2014

Celebrate Quilts and Diaries from the Past

Last week I had the opportunity to give a presentation to a group at a local history center. It happened to be the place where I came across the 1861 diary of Adelia Thomas a few years ago.

The Des Plaines History Center currently has an exhibit of several antique/vintage quilts from their collection. Adelia's diary is also on display. The exhibit runs until June of this year so stop by if you're in town.




While I was writing Remembering Adelia, I immersed myself in Adelia's diary and read and reread it many times. For some reason, the minute I opened the pages of Adelia's little leather-bound journal several years ago and learned that she was a quilter, I was completely drawn into the 19th century and wanted to learn everything I could about her life. I felt compelled to share her words and make sure that her simple but heartfelt story would be revealed to other quilters and enjoyed for the connection it gives us to our country's past. 

For a young woman of 19, living in such uncertain times, life could not have been easy and she often spelled out her frustrations and worries in the pages of her diary. I'm sure Adelia did not intend that her words would be read by so many strangers so many years later and I hope she wouldn't have minded. She wrote every day and yet you only get a smattering of her writing in the published version - there wasn't room in a quilting book to include all of her writing and everything else I would have liked to include. But the DesPlaines History Center has recently made Adelia's diary available online if anyone would like to read it in its entirety.  Click here to get to the diary pages.

Some of you have asked me about the diary pages that weren't included in the book, so here are just a few "missing" entries I thought you might enjoy reading that I hope will take you a little further into Adelia's ordinary, nineteenth-century world. These entries were written a few months before the war began. The diary lays no claim to being an important Civil War document but you do get a very interesting slice of what life must have been like for a woman living in a rural community over 150 years ago, with the war as a backdrop.

January 19, 1861

Emma has a very sore throat and a cold. Did a very large washing today with James' help. Got through about three o'clock. Mrs. Bennett called. She was sewing at Alcott's. Got tired of so much noise among the young ones that she came here to get away from it.

Mr. Howard came back from Woodstock. Staid all night and Mother and Father went to hear him preach in the evening. Some little children came in the evening and we made molasses candy.

January 20

Emma sick yet I did not get up early enough to get the work done in time to go to church so Mother, Father, Myron and Elias went without me. After meeting was out Elias and I stole the horse and cutter and went up to Melvira's. Had a grand good visit and made a call at Mr. Armstrong's with Melvira and Dave.

January 21

This morning got up with a very sore throat myself. Emma seems better. Had a high fever and headache all day. Laid about most of the time. Miss Howard came here and stayed all night. Mother, Myon and Miss Howard went to Lyceum in the evening. Father went to the station and brought home Auntie's new bed stead and teapot. Brought a letter from Laura Jefferson.

January 22

We are very busy putting up Auntie's new bedstead in her room. Put the old one in the children's room.

January 23

Mr. Bennett here. Played us some excellent songs. His violin was broken so he borrowed Mr. Lewis Bennett's. It was a poor thing but we managed to play some pretty good pieces together. Mrs. Bennett and Mrs. Town spent the day here. Morris West called. Mr B. sang for him then we played some pieces together. He sang "A Snake in the Grass." Went to singing school in the evening.

January 24

A very cold blustery day. Mr. Bennett went home in the snow. Myron took Maria and Marg up to Huffman's schoolhouse to spelling school [by sleigh]. It was so cold they did not have any school so they spent the evening at Mr. Towns. Tipped over into the snow coming home. Froze both ears and his fingers.

January 25

Emma and Clara went to Melvira's to spend the day. John Shaver went after her to come to Towns to the dance. Frank came after Jim and I.

January 26

Went to Spelling School then went to take a sleigh ride after. Maria and I did not want to go. The rest acted like fools.

January 29

Emma went to Woodstock with Frank Patterson and Mrs. Town. So very cold that they could not come home. But Emma, Carrie Griffith, Frank and Sellers could go to McHenry and be gone till two o'clock at night.

The wind blew very cold all day. In the evening went to singing school. Came home freezing my ears.

January 30

Carried Charley's stove home and put the dairy stove in the salting room. Frank brought James home, left Emma there. Very cold today. Expected to go to Mrs. Vosburgh's this afternoon to sing with Mr. Bennett. Got ready to go and Mother said if anybody went she should go. When I gave it up then she would not. She said I might go when I got the supper dishes washed. When I got them most done she came in the kitchen with her bonnet and shawl on. Said she was going to Mrs. V—I was provoked then staid at home until Singing School, then went with James.


Quilting Stories said...

Oh, I love this book! Remembering Adelia is the first book I bought in Chicago four years ago, when I was staying there at my son's.
Greetings from Greece. Christine

Samplings from Spring Creek said...

Beautiful quilts and beautiful story. In todays mass media so much of the day to day is lost.

Donna Keating said...

I love Adelia's diary. I need to go back to your book and re-read her entries.

Betty Lou said...

Thank you so much for sharing how we could read the complete diary. Remembering Adelia is my favorite of your books, certainly love the quilts in all your books, but loved Adelia's stories.

Christine said...

Thank you for sharing the link and the entries. Remembering Adelia is probably my favorite quilting book. I work at a living history site interpreting textiles and it helps to get inside her head and understand what mattered to her on a daily basis.

agullainquieta said...

Una entrada preciosa, gracias por el enlace y por darnos a comocer el Diario de Adelia.
Un abrazo desde Cataluña

Marie said...

Merci de ce partage fort interessant
ne pouvant lire courrament l'anglais
j'appreçie particulierement d'avoir pu lire ces lignes
Bonjour de France
Marie Christine

sue bennett said...

Thanks for sharing parts of the diary. I love reading the parts in Remembering Adelia. It draw you right in. Great read this morning.

quiltgrannie said...

Thanks for sharing where to go to read the whole diary. It is very fun to read about the local towns and what they did for entertainment. Karen S.

Nita said...

That is fabulous! Thank you so much. :) I want to tell you that about three years ago I came across a picture of your orange peel quilt that you show here. It so struck me that I started one of my own. I have been slowly piecing away. Sometimes I work fairly steady at it and other times it sits for months. I think it has actually sat for nearly a year, untouched this time. Time to get it out again. :)

Sue said...

Kathy, Remembering Adelia is one of my favorite quilting books. Thank you so much for posting the link to her entire diary....I can't wait to read it! :)

Rosa said...

Wow,awesome quilts and story.Thanks for sharing the story about it!

Unknown said...

Would love to win a new pattern of yours plus the matching fabric. Thank you for the opportunity. Love your little quilts.

Unknown said...

I love the fabric. I don't get out in nature much but I love it in my quilts

Becky Wilson