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Memories on Muslin: 1934 Athelstan Quilt Blocks & Depression-era Quilting

114 pages35 minutes


We leave traces of our lives behind us - sometimes in the most unusual ways.
Eighty years ago, the women and young girls of Athelstan, Iowa left pieces of themselves behind, stitched on muslin squares. In 1934, women in the community formed a quilting club. Quilt blocks with Sunbonnet Sue’s and Overall Bill’s were created and signed with their signature. The blocks were traded with one another and a few quilts were made.
Nellie Morris had other plans for her squares. She signed her block ‘From Mother, To Doris’ and added the year ‘1934’ in the bonnet. A set of 30 squares, 27 signed with names, went to Doris, most probably as a Christmas present, since it was in December.
Doris grew up. She married and had children. She and her husband grew older. And, the squares sat together in a stack. For the next 70 years, never stitched into a quilt.
After Doris’ death, the squares surfaced and they mystery of where these names originated from set the author on a search with the most wonderful results. The names were traced back to Athelstan and in 2014 the squares were donated to the Taylor County Historical Museum in Bedford, just a few miles from where they’d originated from 80 years earlier.
Join us on this journey as the squares, along with history of Athelstan, a small town sitting on the Iowa-Missouri border. Tidbits of 1934, such as prices, dust storms, Bonnie & Clyde, Shirley Temple and more are included, setting the background of the time when these squares were stitched. A brief history of depression-era quilts, the colors, and patterns used is included in this tribute to these Athelstan women.
Squares in this set of squares are from: Doris & Mother (Nellie and Doris Morris), Betty Balch, John Balch, Beverly Ruth Barnett, Dorothy Barnett, Darlene Booher, Leona Booher, Charls Bownes, Evelyn Bownes, Maxine Bownes, Minnie & Josie Bownes, Mrs. E.J. Bownes, Leona Mae Byrns, Jean Marie Carroll, Lelah Clark, Kate Fidler, Katie Kemery, Norma Gean Kemery, Rex Morris, Grace Murray, Georgia Older, Deliliah Rusco, Berneice Scott, Thelma Weaver, Dean Weese, and three unnamed people, anonymous to us forever.

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