With a fire in the hearth and a pot of tea at their side, three women worked stitch by stitch Saturday to help move along a five-year project at the Littleton Museum’s living 1860s farm.
The kaleidoscope-patterned quilt was being created in the same way it would have been more than 150 years ago. Andrea Wilhelm, one of the women gathered around the frame holding the three layers of the quilt together, is the part-time interpreter at the museum.
Wilhelm said she decided to learn how to make a quilt when she realized the farm had several knitters but no quilt makers. After making a small quilt to start, she decided to tackle a big one.
That was five years ago. Even though she looks forward to completing the piece for the museum, the quilt itself has become significant for Wilhelm. During its making, Wilhelm has had two children and completed a master’s degree in library sciences. A scrap of her maternity dress makes up one piece of the quilt.
“That’s what they would have done,” Wilhelm said. “They would have used all the little bits and pieces of this and that.”
The inclusion of old dresses and blankets helped give quilts of old their sentimental value. The women that joined Wilhelm for this modern quilting bee, Sandra Sharp and Sheila Long, talked about the quilts they had inherited from their grandmothers.
“They’re full of memories,” Sharp said. “There are squares that had been fabric used by family members. It’s a little heirloom.”
“It’s something they actually touched,” Wilhelm said. “They made these stitches.”
In the 1860s, quilts weren’t just for passing along something to family members yet to come. It was also a way for entire communities to get together.
Wilhelm said quilting bees were the focal point for many a party, when area women would put the layers of the quilt together.
“It’s nice to have help,” Long said. “And it’s fun to see everyone’s stitches. Everyone’s stitches are different.”
After the men returned from work, a party would ensue. The events even served as a coming-out party for young women, Wilhelm said, and the quilt as the wedding dowry.
Wilhelm said anyone wanting to help with the quilting just needs to call ahead to the museum at 303-795-3950 and bring a needle.
Contact Ramsey Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.