Thursday, December 18, 2014

Why I Love....Quilts: Guest Post by Leah Zieber, Author of Libby Morgan: Reunion

Quilts – I love quilts. The cozy feeling I get when snuggled beneath my quilt is like getting a hug from someone I love. They are one of the staples in my home that my family has grown to appreciate and love almost as much as I do. But what I feel for quilts is more than just an affinity for the actual, tangible thing that I wrap myself in each night; I love quilts for their mystery and the history they hold in their stitches and for all the memories they pass on for future generations to uncover, treasure and in my case – write about.

To understand just how a quilt can hold memories, it is important to understand what goes into making a quilt. It is a lengthy process that entails design consideration, fabric selection, gathering, cutting, sewing, sewing, and more sewing, block layout, more sewing, then layering, more design consideration for the quilting, more sewing and finally, the finishing process of binding up the unfinished edges. Hopefully, the quilt is given a label, too – but not usually, otherwise it wouldn’t be such a mystery.

Throughout the quilt making process, knowledge about the maker and a record of the times are often stitched into the folds of the object. The mystery comes in trying to decipher this knowledge. When designing a quilt, the maker considers the news of the day and the interests, desires and life altering events of the quilt’s recipient, as well as her own interests, desires and life events. For example, use of the heart design may indicate a marriage or death quilt, trees or the house design may reflect one’s love of family or home, and signature blocks with endearing sayings of remembrances may be used for someone leaving a community or for someone being left behind. (See figure 1 and 2 for signed quilt blocks from an 1850’s quilt.) Even religious, political and organizational affiliations can be represented in the designs of some quilts, both in the selected design (e.g., Temperance Block for the prohibitionists) and the fabrics chosen for the quilt (e.g., political ribbons or fabrics depicting government figures like presidents or war generals for the patriots).  Having a basic understanding of history, some knowledge about a person’s life events - as can be found on - and a bit of background regarding the symbolism found in a community can often lead to a greater understanding of why a quilt was made.  I love to find a quilt with little or no history and try to unravel some of the mysteries held within.

Signature Block from 1853 Quilt

Close Up of Signature

The fabrics in quilts are usually quite beautiful. Every image conceivable can be found in both old and modern textiles. I love the variety of design and color, but my real love for the fabrics comes from a different perspective. Taking a closer look at the materials used to make the quilt can convey insight into the quilt’s secrets. A family legacy can be found in the fabrics that were selected to make a quilt. Sometimes, makers’ dresses gone out of fashion were used in quilts; old, quilted petticoats have also been found. Relatives and friends would share bits of fabrics and close examination of quilts from the same community will often reveal many of the same prints – this is often found in signature quilts from the Quaker communities. Makers would use feed sacks from the family farm; even salesman sample card fabric swatches from Papa’s mercantile store can be found in some quilts. A maker’s frugality can often be seen in fabrics they used; recycling was being done long before it was hip. But not just a maker’s economy, the family’s prosperity can also be seen in the costly yards of a French chintz fabric that was used to make up a quilt’s backing or in the finely made binding of store-bought, woven tape. The materials used to make a quilt imparts wisdom that bring me closer to understanding the circumstances of the maker, the owner and history of the textiles of the time, and for this reason I love the fabrics.

Mother Morgan’s Framed Angel Quilt – Made by Leah Zieber 2014 (a quilt from the novel.) This quilt is full of fabric that I love!

Quilt makers often remained anonymous, but many left pseudo-signatures hidden for only the most discerning eye to find. Looking closely at the quilting can reveal a lot about the maker or makers. Hidden in the multitude of stitches that hold the quilt layers together I find many clues to the quilt’s mystery of whom, why, where and when. Differences in the quality of quilting stitches can reveal a group project such as a quilting bee or perhaps a teacher and student (i.e., mother and child). Symbols stitched into the quilting can help define a particular region from which the quilt may have come or an association with a group. (e.g., The Order of Odd Fellows were often represented by the three interlocking chain links or circles. See Figure 4. ). The type of thread used for the quilting (two-ply or three) can reveal when a quilt was quilted. Occasionally, just the tiniest of initials cross-stitched in a corner can confirm or reject a names associated with the quilt. And sometimes, but not often, a quilt has a goldmine of information stitched into the designs – names, dates, locations, even the occasion for the quilt have all have been found in the quilt stitches.  There is a secret held in the stitches that brings me closer to the legacy waiting to be revealed.

Interlocking Rings in the quilting could symbolize an Order of the Odd Fellows affiliation

It takes patience to thoroughly examine a quilt, but my patience is usually rewarded with fragments of information about a person or people, about an unknown place and about the events of a time in history that, without the quilt, may have remained forever lost to posterity. I love the mystery, I love the history, I love quilts.

Thank you so much, Leah, for this thought-provoking guest post! I never would have guessed the mysteries hidden within a quilt...I need to go back and look closely at some my grandmother made!

Readers, please be sure to continue below for more about Leah's book, Libby Morgan: Reunion, and check out the rest of the blog tour!

Publication Date: September 7, 2014
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 283
Series: American Heritage Quilt Series
Genre: YA/Historical Fiction
Coming from a long line of seamstresses, Libby has yet to sew anything more than the rudimentary button or hem, but on a visit to Connecticut she learns more than just how to sew patchwork. Set in 1855 New England and London, this tender story, Libby Morgan: Reunion, follows tenacious Elizabeth (Libby) Jane Morgan through her thirteenth summer of new adventures at home and abroad. She is given a birthday gift of sewing tools and fabric, as well as old family letters to use as templates for making her first quilt. Her decision to first read the letters results in questions that only her Grandmother Morgan’s stories can answer—stories of true love, horrible loss and family connections to London nobles. Her keen eye and inquisitive nature draws her family into a mysterious investigation that tests their faith, challenges their ability to forgive, and results in a resurrection and reunion of lost hearts.

Buy the Book

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About the Author

Leah A. Zieber is a quilt historian and quilt maker from Temecula, California, specializing in
American quilt history and reproduction quilts from the nineteenth century. Her quilts have been exhibited across the country in quilt shows, museums and historical societies and were most recently published in Stars: A Study of 19th Century Star Quilts. Leah has worked closely with Southern California collectors, cataloging, managing, and independently researching their textile collections. Her own collection of antique quilts and related textile items spans one hundred and eighty five years, and she shares her knowledge of American quilt history using her collection in lectures and workshops. Libby Morgan: Reunion is her debut novel and the first in her American Heritage Quilt Series.

For more information please visit Leah Zieber’s website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Libby Morgan: Reunion Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, December 1

Review at WV Stitcher

Tuesday, December 2

Spotlight at I’d Rather Be Reading

Thursday, December 4

Interview & Giveaway at Reading Lark

Friday, December 5

Review at Book Nerd

Saturday, December 6

Review at Mel’s Shelves

Monday, December 8

Review at Forever Ashley

Tuesday, December 9

Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Spotlight at Boom Baby Reviews

Wednesday, December 10

Review at Luxury Reading
Spotlight & Giveaway at Mina’s Bookshelf

Friday, December 12

Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Monday, December 15

Spotlight at Just One More Chapter

Tuesday, December 16
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Wednesday, December 17
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, December 18
Guest Post at Historical Tapestry

Friday, December 19
Guest Post at Book Babe

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