Frugal, thrifty, enduring, colorful, comforting, warm. These words capture both the spirit of Iowa quilters through the centuries and the fabrics they stitched together. In Patchwork, Jacqueline Schmeal celebrates the lives of Iowa quilters and the enduring beauty of historic Iowa quilts.
Drawing on written records by and interviews with contemporary quilters, many of whom were born in the early years of the twentieth century, Schmeal presents the life histories of these hard-working yet inspired artists. Sisters Elsie Ball and Mary Ball Jay of Fairfield—charging one and a quarter cents per yard of thread—kept meticulous records of each of the 135 quilts they stitched between 1935 and 1970. Ivan Johnson plowed his fields by day and quilted vivid designs by night. Cloth scraps were so precious to Barbara Chupp, an Amish quilter, that she became known for her mosaic piecing. Members of the Sunshine Circle, organized in 1912 in a Quaker church in Earlham, still quilt together today. Mennonite quilter Sara Miller became famous nationwide for her fabric store, Kalona Kountry Kreations. Their stories—of impoverished childhoods, hardscrabble work, and strong families—are enhanced by over seventy color photographs of an unbelievably rich collection of historic quilts ranging from the early 1800s to the 1950s.
Offering both a glimpse into the daily lives of twentieth-century quiltmakers and an amazing treasury of Iowa's historic quilts, Patchwork is a loving tribute to the creative spirit that links modern-day quilters to the patterns and traditions of their predecessors.