In a back issue of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine from 1989, I came across this article about an amazing quilter by the name of Malinda S. Seay, and the quilt she made in 1872 for her 4 year old son, Albert.
Malinda's quilt was handmade from start to finish. To begin, she had to weave her own cotton fabric made from thread she spun on her spinning wheel, using cotton she had picked herself. She also gathered leaves, berries, bark and other organic materials to make the dye to color her fabric. The picture of the quilt is in black and white, but it says that she chose orange and blue for her colors. (This was one dynamic lady!)
She made her own templates for her patterns and did the piecing by hand. For the batting, it was back to the hand picked cotton that she carded, and more of her hand woven fabric for the backing.
Busy with chores during the day, she did most of her quilting at night, using light from an oil lamp she had made from a tin can, with a wick made from cotton strips, and oil from animal fat. Her quilt frame was made from trees that grew in the nearby woods.
With all the work that went into just getting the materials to make the quilt, you might picture a pretty nine-patch or log cabin. (I did.) However, the pattern she chose, called "Wheel of Fortune" was very complex, consisting of curved pieces fitting into a circle, with 8 narrow points that meet in the center, and surrounded by tiny rectangles. Here is the pattern for just one block:
Amazing, isn't it? And, judging from the photo in the magazine, it appears that she made a quilt that must have contained at least 25 or more of these blocks! My colored-pencil version of the block was difficult enough to draw, even with the help of a computer, and Malinda had 32 pairs of tiny rectangles in her circle, not 24. I can't imagine making all those quilt pieces come together. Heck, I can't imagine all the hard work it must have taken just to get through the day back in 1872! I would have been an awful pioneer.