Everyone contributed a square, which was then sewn into the quilt
which can be seen in the exhibit. Here are photographs of a couple of
the stages and the finished result. Below, Rachel contributed some
history of quilts and samplers. The pattern we used for the quilt was
from "Prairie Children and their Quilts" by Kathleen Tracy.
Before modern medicine the loss of close family and friends was all
too familiar. Little could be done in the face of most diseases. A bit
of comfort was found in the making of a quilt. One elderly woman
remembers her mother taking some blue silk out of a hope chest after a
neighbor’s baby died. “Mama and three other women set up the frame and
quilted all day. First they quilted the lining for the casket and then
they made a tiny little quilt out of blue to cover the baby”. In some
situations there was no wood for a casket so the deceased were wrapped
in a quilt for burial. Quilts have been used for viewings as well as
for draping a coffin. Sometimes the quilt was a family quilt or a quilt
owned by a church. In the Victorian era some children were photographed
under a mourning quilt so their parents could imagine their children
sleeping. Mourning quilts however are still used today. Many were made
in the tragedy of September 11, 2001.
Mourning samplers, also called memorial samplers, were popular in the 1800’s and stayed around for another 30 years. They were made of the finest materials and the most complex stitch. The Victorians had a large amount of preoccupation with dying, hence the mourning sampler was popular in that era. When George Washington died many mourning samplers were made for him. Many of these are in museums and private collections today. Almost all of them were embroidered with silk thread on painted satin. They took a long time to make and were sometimes used as the “final exam” in Dame schools. Some samplers may have been sewn with the hair of the deceased loved one. Almost anything was used for thread and fabric. They were heirlooms. Passed down from generation to generation. They were guarded like diaries.