Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Women turn scraps into masterpieces

A detail from a pieced and embroidered quilt, one of dozens that my husband's parents accepted in lieu of payment for goods from their general store in Cyril, Oklahoma, during the 1930s.  The center of each star has an embroidered signature, most likely of the group of women who helped with the final quilting and assembling.The initials O E S probably designate a member of Order of the Eastern Star, a women's group.  
Today is International Women's Day, a good time to celebrate the virtuoso work done by women fiber artists. Chief among these treasures are the thousands of wholly original designs for pieced quilts.  Women worked alone at home, but they also often collaborated with their neighbors. Stitching the finished quilt top to its filling and backing was almost always a group project, which provided companionship and helped spread ideas about design and fabrication.  
Yesterday, my post featured some letters made up of scraps of fabric. But that's not the only way letters were stitched into cloth.  Embroidered signatures were a favorite addition.  The quilt above is a rich cultural document that has an important story to tell about the town, the women, the material culture, the era, and the national values that shaped it.  
Whatever else women create, they create connections.  

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