Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - June 17, 2005


Quilts as memory makers

Mom, Aunt Edith, my sister Gaila and I traveled to my hometown of Burns for a Ladies Summer Supper and Old-Fashioned Bed-Turning last Saturday. I was curious about the bed-turning as I had never heard of such a thing.

The men in Burns have had an annual Lion's Club Steak Feed for years, but this was the first time the women of the town sponsored an event at the same time.

We arrived at the Burns Community Center with our friend Nedy. The place was buzzing with activity and conversation. Some ladies were scurrying about the kitchen while others were unfolding and labeling quilts and placing them on a bed set up in the main room. Hugs and smiles were shared all around as old friends greeted each other.

The tables were decorated with fresh flowers, bright cotton napkins and white dishes. Desserts to die for were lined up along the kitchen counters and on carts. It was all very elegant.

We sat at tables where we were served spinach and strawberry salad, tomato soup and chicken almondine. Baskets filled with muffins, garlic bread, rolls and loaf breads were passed around. Then came the dessert carts loaded with mouth-watering concoctions - coconut cream pie, apple raisin spice cake, cheesecake drizzled with strawberries, triple- and quadruple-layered chocolate creations. There were so many choices, it was hard to pick just one.

"The men can have their beef," I thought, "I'll take this any day!"

After dessert, we gathered around for the program. Nearly 50 quilts were piled high on the bed. Smaller quilted pieces were displayed on nearby tables and walls.

"The idea for this program is to share memories about the quilts," Mary, the mayor of Burns, announced.

Sandy, the main organizer for the event, said she had heard of bed-turnings in the South and wanted to start the tradition in Burns. Quilting has had its ups and downs in terms of popularity, she added. The art was revived in 1976 when our country celebrated its bicentennial.

As each quilt was held up, Sandy related its history.

Several were made by grandmothers, great-grandmothers and even great, great-grandmothers of the women in attendance. Some were well-worn, while others looked like they had never been used.

The yellow and turquoise one I took along was made by my Grandma Ethel. My sister and I remember hiding underneath her quilt frame when she hosted the EWT (Eat, Work, Talk) Club at her home.

The patterns were as varied as the women in attendance - Nine-Square, Grandmother's Flower Garden, Dresden Plate, Underground Railroad, Windmill and Star, one depicting Old Testament scenes, another with a K-State Powercat applique bordered by various shades of purple cloth and Sandy's original design called "It's the Berries."

The majority of the quilts were made of cotton, but there were a couple of heavy wool and one of silk from India. Some blocks were crocheted; others were cross-stitched, embroidered or appliqued. Gaila shared a wall hanging that was made from Dad's ties. Some quilts had smooth edges while others had scalloped or tatted edges.

The method of quilting varied, too. Some were made from scrap-bag pieces stitched by hand by the light of kerosene lamps; others were sewn with old treadle sewing machines. Still others were rendered with modern sewing equipment.

Although the quilts were beautiful by themselves, the stories that went along with them made them even more beautiful. I appreciate those quilts as works of art and admire the women whose stories are intertwined with each stitch. Those days under Grandma's quilt frame must have somehow rubbed off on me.

Sister Gaila's wall hanging (left) was made from my Dadís old ties.
Those attending were fascinated by the variety of designs and materials.

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