As Christmas nears many homes will use a wreath to decorate their front doors.
The history of wreaths goes back to ancient times when Greeks crowned athletes with a laurel wreath and in Rome Julius Caesar wore one befitting his status.
Wreaths, circular in design bring the motifs of circle of life/eternal life to mind. Traditional Christmas wreaths are made of evergreens symbolizing the winter solstice and the slow return of the sun with the coming spring.
Applique designs in red/green/white were very popular among women quilters in the mid-1800s. The color combination appears on Baltimore album, medallion, floral and wreath quilts.
This was a time when women lavishly quilted their quilts often with double and triple rows of stitching. It was also a time of major changes in the lives of American women. Many families were leaving the family farm for better opportunities in the cities. No longer “down on the farm” where she would have been involved with the making of cloth from sheep to cloth, now it was the husband’s duty to bring home the bacon and the wife’s primary duty to raise moral children and take care of the home which would include quilt making.
During the Civil War heirloom quality quilts were pressed into service to keep a father/brother/son warm often to return in tatters, if at all. Some of the quilts were used to raise funds for the Cause on both the Northern and Southern side. Still many of these stunning works of art would be carefully preserved and passed down from one generation to the next.
It was a great surprise and much excitement when a wreath quilt from the era was brought into Born Again Quilts to be sold. With the tiniest stitches this wreath quilt is as stunning as the day it was made. The Turkey red and green dyes are vibrant. The fabric has a light brown tone to it that occurs with age.
Determining the quilts age was not a problem for someone sewed a paper label to the back including birth, marriage and death information of the maker. Although the label has deteriorated, it is plain to read: Born June 23, 1827, Married May 27, 1852 and died September 4, 1887 at age 60. The woman describes the quilt as a Peony quilt making it a variation on the traditional peony quilt. Nevertheless the blocks create wreaths, a symbol of never ending life in this season of expectation and joy.
Lois Levihn is the owner of Born Again Quilts restoration studio and quilt gallery located at 4005 South Wayne Avenue. She invites you to attend the open house on December 13 from 9-2. She may be contacted at 260-515-9446 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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