Sunday, February 11, 2018

Uncommon Patience or Useless Work?

Throughout the history of American patchwork, some quilters have hoped to astound the audience---or at the least the local newspaper editor looking
for a little filler. 

27,656 pieces in 1828, Doyleston, PA

Eva Margaret Delaplain Rogers, Missouri,
 30,672 pieces she says

Here's an excuse to show some patchwork feats
with 19th-century editorial comments.

I'm not counting these pieces. The quilts have nothing to do with
the newspaper clippings, except for an emphasis on numbers.

7,239 pieces in Charleston, SC, 1834
"An uncommon stock of patience and perseverance"

Bessie Ely, Collection of the Smithsonian Institutiuon

From the New York Project & the Quilt Index
Broken Dishes

Counting stitches in New York

Ocean Wave, Annie Hart Beall, Collection of the Ohio Historical Society.  
14,572 pieces says the caption in the Ohio book, Quilts in Community.

58,104 in 1886 in Granada, MS

An octagonal block

Curiosity Quilt with 20,218 pieces in 1912 in Ware Shoals, SC

From Robert Shaw's book
American Quilts: The Democratic Art

45,966---Chatanooga, TN, 1888
"Mary Sewell, a sweet 16-year-old young lady who resides near Chattanooga...has pieced a quilt that has 45,966 scraps in it. It is fearful to think a mind may also go to pieces fastened so long to such useless work. The quilt when completed will be no better for use than the $2 quilt made of plain material."

Elnetta Josephine Gifford, Michigan Project & the Quilt Index.

From Florida Memory
Queen Udell. Her husband says she has the "Patience of Job."

"5810" it says in the center
By Sallie Jane Woodward,Iredell County, North Carolina.
 North Carolina project & the Quilt Index. 


  1. I am about 1/3 of the way into a 9749 piece quilt. It will probably take me 2-1/2 years to finish completely, but it will be beautiful. Other people watch reality TV. I quilt. Which is more useless, I ask you?

  2. There seemed to be a lot of discord in the nineteenth century between those who gloried in an quilt of many pieces and those who scorned their makers for the time invested in them.

  3. Amazing quilts - I think if I attempted one it would be so wonky!

  4. Love the newspaper's positioning of the advert for "fresh drugs" next to comments about the 16 year old girl possibly suffering damage to her mind.
    These quilts are a fine example of our need for manual activity. Surely no worse than swiping at a smart phone all day. And more to show for it in the end. And way better than smoking!

  5. Some people who knit or hand sew a lot say their hands are just restless for something to do when they're sitting quietly watching t.v. or listening to something. I think for some people there is something to that. I keep a long cable knitted scarf in progress on hand at home for this purpose and have been missing it lately because I need to order another ball of yarn to complete it.

    Some people think this feeling is built-in because in earlier days, we needed to have busy hands pretty much all the time to keep up with a family's needs -- think knitting, sewing, spinning, carding, weaving etc.

    When I don't have my project at hand, I find myself shopping online. "Idle hands are the Devil's workshop" indeed!

  6. Fantastic post! I must admit to being one of those people who has always a hand work project at the ready. In fact I often have one in every room and I most definitely keep one in the glovebox in case of emergency idleness. I am rarely obsessed with the number of pieces (my record is 7,230) but I do tend to get carried away with the variety of fabrics. It is far easier to make a charm quilt than a purely scrappy one that may inadvertently have a union (or even close proximity) of the same fabric.

  7. I have experienced the scorn toward the art of quiltmaking from members of my own family. Why should you waste your time putting that together when you can go to the five and dime and pick up a blanket? That was the 1990s.
    It infuriated me then and it still does. These quilts are amazing and definitely not a useless waste of time.