Book challenge – number 22 – how the West was really won

Book challenge number 22 is a book with pictures. As well as making things I love to read about the history of craft and none more so than the history behind quilts.

I have a growing collection of books on quilt history, both in the UK and US, and this is my latest acquisition which I have absolutely loved reading.

Wisconsin Quilts – History in the Stitches by Ellen Kort is a brilliant book as not only are the quilts wonderful but this was part of a special project to document quilts so they were brought by the current owners, often the descendants of the original makers.

This means that there are the stories and sometimes the pictures of the women who made them which is amazing as so often that information is lost.

Wisconsin Quilts

As expected many are stories of hardship, of women leaving families as new brides and moving west, to Wisconsin and then sometimes further west to Wyoming and Oregon as well in search of a better life. The quilts are beautiful and so detailed in their execution, all hand pieced and hand quilted.

These are three of my favourites, a Star of Bethlehem from 1856, a Rose Wreath from 1865 and a Grandmother’s Flower Garden Path from 1932 during the Depression.

Wisconsin quilt book

Wisconsin quilt book 3

Wisconsin quilt book 4

There are lots of deaths of children from disease and of husbands from accidents, injuries and later the Civil and First World Wars.

The quilts that they made so different from the ones we make today, from whatever they could find in the way of fabric, saving and reusing every scrap where we have the luxury of yards of new fabric to choose from.

This quilt was made from advertising flannels given away with tobacco products in the 1920s.

Wisconsin quilt book 2

One of the quilts was made in England from scraps of velvet fabric saved by one of the needlewomen who made Queen Victoria’s bonnets.

Unfortunately too dark for me to photograph properly it travelled to the USA with its maker Kitty Weekes in the late 1840s when she went to join her brother Thomas and his friend George in Wisconsin. She helped clear land and build a house and married George in 1855 at the age of 44.

There are however so many similarities between us and those women, quilts made for celebration such as births and weddings, quilts made with friends for company, quilting being a little bit of ‘me time’ at the end of a hard day, though my hardest days at work cannot compare to being a pioneer farmer’s wife in the 1800s.

There are also quilts made to raise funds for war efforts, both the Civil war and the First World War like this one – an autograph quilt to raise money for the Red Cross.

Wisconsin quilt book 5

I have been watching the Poldark series on BBC TV and many of the Cornish miners emigrated to Wisconsin when the mines began to decline and worked in lead mines there.

This is how the West was truly won, the hard work of all those men and women who set out alone and worked through cold winters and lonely times.

The book is a brilliant portrayal of the social history of a new state covering the late 1700s to 1943 and a really interesting read.

I have recently finished another book about emigration which has a personal connection so will post about that another time.

Thanks very much for visiting.

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