In the spring of 1933, my great-grandmother, Effie Bernice Hunt, began a labor of love at her kitchen table: a 25-week handmade quilting project using 25 appliquéd quilt blocks. Each handmade quilt block featured a different flower loved in the Pacific Northwest and ranged from camellia to gladiolus to bluebells. The patterns were published weekly in the Sunday Oregonian newspaper. A full 60 years later, I assembled those flimsy polished cotton handmade quilt blocks in the gorgeous “Modern Flower Applique Quilt” finish. Effie had carefully tucked the instructions between the full applique quilt blocks for the final quilt assembly. What a beautiful handmade quilt and what a portrait of the past he bequeathed to me!
Family history has it that Effie’s heart or handmade quilt-making operation, and she made many appliqué quilts and patchwork quilts, was on the kitchen table in front of her beloved huge radio set parked just in the middle of everything. My appliqué quilt in particular gradually appeared on a weekly basis beginning in the spring of 1933. While life for the entire family revolved around that “command center” in the kitchen, my father remembers being thrown out to play when his Grandma claimed her “alone time”. .” The kitchen became resolutely off limits, except for handmade quilt making and radio time!
Effie set aside this time each day to work on the weekly handmade quilt block, soaking up her favorite soap operas and listening to the latest world news. She is remembered as a history buff and news junkie! Imagine some of the conscience sewn into my handmade quilt: in 1933 Hitler became the German chancellor, the Nazis began their reign of terror, Franklin D. Roosevelt became president of the United States, and the New Deal was launched. Postage for a letter back then was also only 3 cents!
So, on May 28, 1933, the Sunday paper published the first weekly appliqué quilt block pattern: “The Tulip.” “associated with Holland and spring and brightness of hue… the tulip can become one of the most colorful on the quilt.” Beige or black were the suggested color choices for the base of the handmade quilt blocks and I love how you chose black. The colors of the flowers are so vivid and bold against this backdrop that they literally jump off the appliqued quilt.
Appliqué Quilt Block #5: “La Capuchina” was released on Sunday June 25th. It represents two stimulated yellow flowers with a view from the front and another view from the side. My favorite part of this handmade quilt block is the three chubby, round leaves that are so identifiable with the nasturtium plant. I have been growing these flowers for years because they are so delicious to eat in salads!
Appliqué Quilt Block #10: “The Bluebell” was released on Sunday, July 30. The quilter is advised to make the blue bells a light color for visibility and the stitches a darker blue. The seam used to connect the bells to the stem and form the stamens should be orange. For some reason, Effie didn’t connect the bells to the stem with orange stitching, but instead left them free-floating. Perhaps this was more modern for her?
Almost two months later, on October 1, applique quilt block #19: “The Morning Glory” was released. The designer of the handmade quilt wrote that this flower was included “…to allow the wearer of the poppy-retiring appliqué quilt (handmade quilt block #16) to greet the day with morning glory! Following in Effie’s footsteps and being a history buff myself, I can imagine that while sewing this handmade quilt block, Effie might have been listening to news about Prohibition being repealed – what a contrast!
So, here’s just a little historical vignette on my great-grandmother’s personal background and the art of hand-quilting in the 1930s. What a wonderful gift and historical portrait Effie left behind. I feel so lucky to daily gaze at this beautiful “Modernist Flower Applique Quilt” and remember her life and her world as she knew it.