By Tammy Seibert
When Marcie and I were first looking through Vogue in August, one of the ads that caught my eye right away was the Christian Dior ad of Patchwork Fashion.
I also noticed Ralph Lauren doing a similar version of crazy patchwork quilt skirts and dresses. It made my heart swoon.
When I saw these ads, I knew immediately my patchwork skirt with velvet insert strips would be fun to wear this fall.
I loved mixing it with my pink silk camisole and floral chocolate brown top.
Romantic accessories with my pink velvet lace up boots and brown corduroy newsboy hat to bring me warmth to autumn’s colder temperatures.
One of the main reasons I love this patchwork fashion is my paternal grandmother (Noma Nease) was a quilter and seamstress. My grandmother had 11 children and was married to my grandfather for 46 years before he died with a stroke in 1957.
Part of my grandmother’s survival was keeping busy with her hands. She weathered many storms of life and tragedies by sewing and singing. Her sister Ina, died from being burned, her daughter, Jewel, died young from a crib death, her 3-year-old daughter, Leda, burned to death in a hay-barn fire, her oldest daughter, Stella, died after giving birth to her third daughter, and in 1939, my grandmother’s house burned to the ground. She believed she sewed to heal her soul. She literally sewed for therapy; she had faith in God and faith in her handwork. Sewing was more productive and less costly than going to a doctor.
She could make dresses, shirts, pants and most anything of need, but her real love was making quilts. She cut small squares of fabric from scraps that were left from other projects or from good parts of a worn dress or shirt. She would take these small squares, about two-inch square in diameter, and hand-sew them together in all kinds of designs. She used an unusual open-ended thimble to protect her finger. I have this thimble today in a shadow box filled with heirlooms and pictures of my grandmother. It even contains a quilt scrap she pieced together.
The women of Bethel Methodist Church, with my grandmother’s help, started a quilting club for missions. They quilted other people’s quilts for a small fee. They made quilts and sold them. One of the first quilts she made sold for five dollars. The object was to get together, tell stories as they quilted, and the money was a side issue and all went to Missions. The group of women became a therapy group without knowing about group therapy. By this time, my grandmother understood that one couldn’t avoid pain and suffering and the suffering of others. In telling her stories, she found support and understanding in the other women. She knew one could not hide from suffering and pain because to deny it only makes us more afraid.
Someone said it something like this, “from our wounds, we find the strength we need to live.” Wisdom is knowing the difference between hiding and taking refuge. Sewing for the soul was a refuge.
The quilts she made were a real work of art. They were multi-colored and beautiful in design. She started by stretching a lining on the quilt frames. Next was a layer of cotton, and then the top she had pieced into a design. They all had different names like: stamp quilts, crazy quilts, double-wedding-rings, triple-wedding-rings, flower garden, drunkard’s path and one-star.
She took great pride in her stitches as they were consistent in length and order. In the 1980s, she and my four aunts began to sell their work for a good price.
One of my grandmother’s dreams was accomplished wonderfully well. She made a quilt for each of her children and each of her 28 grand children before she went to heaven. She made the quilt tops but she had help from her daughters in quilting some of the quilts. They became interested in quilting and her legacy lives on in the hands of my aunts. My Aunt Jimmie Lou is the only daughter left now and she still makes t-shirt quilts for the kids in the family when they graduate from high school.
Today I honor my grandmother two days after her birthday by keeping her story alive. She was born November 23, 1892 in Arkansas and died November 16, 1988. I loved her so much… she rocked me a hundred miles and on the day of her funeral at the Marlow Methodist Church we put a quilt on the top of her casket to honor her legacy.
The Real-Real Behind the Scenes
History of the Crazy Patchwork Quilt
The birth of the Crazy Patchwork Quilting Craze started when women were eager to incorporate this new look into their quilts and with the help of popular women’s magazines, the making of crazy quilts became quite the rage. Creativity was wide open with women sewing asymmetrical pieces of fabric together in abstract arrangements. Enthusiasm for this quilting fad continued until about 1910.
Originally these quilts were made by those women in the wealthy classes who had the time and the money for the expensive fabric. Before long, other women got in on the fad and found ways to make their own crazies. Some were made from the fancy clothing of the day that had been discarded or passed on to less affluent relatives. Also packets of silk scraps from mills and factories were sold inexpensively through mail order making this style of quilting affordable for more women.
After 1900 women adapted their crazy quilting to using such fabric as flannels, denims and other cottons. They did not always put decorative stitching on these quilts; instead they were often simply pieced. This is why you see a great variety in antique crazy quilts.
A Little Background Music
Dolly Style Shopping Links
Okay first, three links with prices that would make Grandmother Noma roll in her grave! I think it’s ironic how much patchwork clothes can cost compared to our ancestors doing it in very hard times out of necessity.
Here are ways we can ALL participate in this heart-warming trend:
*Photos of Tammy by art photographer Darrin Presley