The Quilt Project

A few years ago, while preparing for a talk on women, I came across an old quilt. At first, when I saw it, all I saw was that it was tattered and torn and had been cut and repaired. I was wondering why my mother suggested I use it. Then she reminded me that my grandmother had made this quilt while she was still living in Kansas in the 1930s and I looked at it with a different perspective. The multicolored blocks and shapes that make up the quilt fit together to create a thing of beauty. The cotton was the old cotton; sure, it was matted where it was coming out of the edge of the quilt, but it was the original cotton used in the quilt about 80 years ago! It was well-loved and much-used and it carried its own battle scars. Therefore, I decided to use the quilt when I did my next talk on how women contributed to the cause during the American Civil War.

The quilt made me think -- which we all know can be dangerous. Quilts and the making of quilts were social events. When women made quilts their entire family was involved, sometimes their entire town. From the earliest times, the gathering of the right fabrics, and the choices for the quilting frame were important. Lessons were taught while making a quilt -- not the least of which was patience. Young ladies, as well as young boys sometimes, learned sewing skills. And while quilting, women socialized which often led to other conversations, lessons and lifelong friendships. Quilts were then handed down from generation to generation and became heirlooms.

Quilts have always been a part of our heritage. They served a practical function but in the making of a quilt the calico, cotton and homespun or finer satins, silks and ribbons always came from a used dress or a scrap left over from some other quilt. Nothing was wasted and the memories were preserved. Today, we often make quilts that are memories in fabric, for wall hangings or colorful murals.

Our community is like this quilt, which has seen much of the same history in this community, at least since 1942. Our community, like the pattern in the quilt, is over 200 years old. We are a little tattered and torn, and our stuffing is showing through our battle scars. But the story doesn’t end there. The story of our community, like the quilt, is in its making where we see our early settler and immigrant history in the calicos; our ethnic, racial and religious diversity in the other various multicolored fabrics; our past reputation as farm, orchard and vineyard in the use of the basket pattern; our business and industry in the cotton - our stuffing showing even though the industry in the community, once the foundation of the community, has waxed and waned and changed over the years. We still have the moral fiber and the strength to continue, and its all sewn together, piece by piece, by the tenacity, strength, will, growth, prosperity, love and patience of its people. We at the Collinwood Nottingham Historical Society hope that you can see that our history is as intricately woven together with the present as this quilt is. Help us tell the story of the community through its people; churches; schools; infrastructure; recreation and entertainment venues; business and industry, etc. Help us create a picture of the quilt of our community. If you have anything to share or any questions for CNHS, contact us via mail at 1141 East 167 Street; Cleveland, Ohio 44110; by email at CollNottHistory@aol.com; or leave a message at (216) 486-1298.

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Volume 2, Issue 2, Posted 11:35 AM, 02.13.2010