1000 Pieces, and Counting

In my last post, I showed my recent library loan reads, and mentioned the book above deserved a post of its own. This book was published in 2007 by Sue Reich. She collected 1,000+ snippets of newspaper posts spanning 100 years of “news-worthy” quilting announcements. The newspaper coverage of our craft in the 19th Century apparently spurred an un-official “contest” among quilters to create the quilt with the most pieces, referred to by the author as multitudinous quilts. You’ve probably seen one if you enjoy looking at vintage quilts, a quilt made of those meticulously small postage stamp sized squares, or triangles, or hexagons, HAND-sewn into a bed sized quilt. There are images throughout the book of these multidtuinous quilts, mostly from private collections (sorry, the photos I included here are from my collection, not from the book).My sweetie and I both enjoyed reading this book. The colorful language of the newspaper reporters and editors is delightful, sometimes rather unkind to the quilter, but always astute and thorough. I included some of my favorites here…

This one, obviosuly written by a man, will infuriate any quilter today… from the Zanesville (Ohio) Daily Courier…November 8, 1877:

“Another silly Ohio woman has just completed a quilt containing five thousand pieces. A woman who should spend her time over such worthless nonsense, when there is so much useful and beautiful work to be done in the world, ought top be ashamed of herself.”

Apparently in his eyes, the quilt that kept her and her husband or her children warm on a cold Ohio night wasn’t considered beautiful, nor was it useful.
Many of them are much more favorable than that and often tout the stitching prowess of the very young (8-9 years old) or the very old (80 years plus!) I love when they counted everything, like this one, because it reminds me of notes left behind by my grandparents noting details and counts of mundane daily facts.

“Miss Eliza Kidd, of Keene, KY, is only twenty years of age, but has immortalized herself by finishing a crazy quilt containing 58,841 pieces, 562,897 stitches, 21 spools of threads abd 30 yards of cloth.” –from the Defiance (Ohio) Democrat, January 1, 1885.

And this one just makes me laugh! From the Stevens Point (Wisconsin) Journal, August 9, 1884:

“The girl with soft gray eyes and rippling brown hair who walked all over your poor fluttering heart at the charity ball, has just finished a crazy quilt containing 1,064 pieces of neckties and hat-linings, put together with 21,390 stitches. And her poor old father fastens on his suspenders with a long nail, a piece of twine, a sharp stick, and one regularly ordained button.” HA!

and should you feel your modern day schedule is too busy or full to get any of your crafting done, to say nothing of your household duties, consider this grand old gal’s accomplishments from the winter of 1854/1855. From the Bangor (Maine) Daily Whig & Courier…June 23, 1855:

“ONE ‘OF THE OLDEN TIME’ A lady of Plainsfield, Mass., aged 80 years, has this past winter, made with her own hands, 17 quilts, consisting of 4300 pieces cut by pattern, worked 978 scallops, cut and made 8 dresses, knit 3 pairs of striped mittens, made butter from two cows, besides the general housework for a family. She has also written over nearly a quare of paper.”

Just reading her list of finishes makes me feel like I want a nap! This is a book I recommend any quilt admirer and history buff track down. It is a very quick read, extremely insightful and entertaining, and the photos of vintage quilts are truly inspiring!

So…have you ever counted the number of pieces in any of your quilts?

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4 thoughts on “1000 Pieces, and Counting

  1. Wow, what an interesting book! I never thought about it but just imagine how many pieces and stitches are actually in some of our quilts. Never worthless nonsense!

  2. so funny you wrote about this…i’m counting the pieces in my selvage quilt…don’t know why i started…i was simply curious about it. reading about that last woman makes me feel pretty much like a slacker.

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