Iowa-Illinois Quilt Study Group

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March 31 – April 1, 2006 Iowa-Illinois Quilt Study Group Kalona, Iowa


The weekend started off at the United Christian Baptist Church with the lecture, “A Tisket a Tasket, a Pretty Quilted Basket” given by Catherine Noll Litwinow. She shared her collection of antique quilts she’s collected and  some she made. There were very few repeats of any of the baskets. They ranged in size from three inches to fifteen inches. A try at counting all the triangles in the Basket of Chips quilt took too long – ha!

There were pieced baskets either empty or full, appliqued quilts with fruits and flowers, and mixed techniques; often the handle would be appliqué and the basket pieced. The lecture was followed by cookies and conversation in the dining hall. This evening lecture addition to the week-end was a lovely way for the travelers to get together the night before the meeting and share. Many of us were like the little guy on the Disney commercial-“I’m too excited to sleep!”

The Kalona Fire Department’s pancake breakfast was available to those who got up early; otherwise, the IIQSG met in the lobby of the Kalona Historical Village Visitor Center mingling, eating donut holes and purchasing items from the “quilt stuff” tables – primarily books and magazines donated by attendees.

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The meeting proper started at 9:30 a.m. in Grout Church with a welcome from Marilyn Woodin, IIQSG tri-founder (with Catherine Litwinow and Susan Wildemuth), Kalona Quilt and Textile Museum Curator, and on-site coordinator for the IIQSG meetings. Susan Wildemuth and Connie Bandstra registered attendees. Andi Reynolds and Kathy Last manned the sale table. Catherine Noll Litwinow was meeting leader.

Most guests came for the morning’s show and share. It started with Sarah’s wonderful museum quality Crazy Quilt. Having heard about Copake Auctions of NY at a previous IIQSG meeting, she took advantage of phone bidding. A flag from 1876 helped to narrow down the quilt’s date. There was a ribbon from the Spanish and American War, butterflies, fans, a turtle, a goose and the “have to buy it factor”—a Black Cat on Pink. Her second quilt was a full size queen made most likely by a PA Mennonite from 1920-1950. The  yellow, green and brown nine-patch with saw tooth yellow and brown inner border had five outer borders of green, blue and brown. This quilt of plain fabrics glowed in the church light.

Kitten was the theme for Virginia’s Kitten Quilt (glad she got her taxes done to be with us). Pink and Blue cats play with a spool of thread, a kit quilt purchased with a 1916 “Home Needlework Magazine.” $1 for the top (possibly wool) and three cents for the floss.

Leon_s_Rising_Sun___Shot__1.jpg (245690 bytes)Leona_s_Rising_Sun_Quilt_Shot__2.jpg (243619 bytes)An antique store in Bloomington, IL had Leona’s Rising Sun quilt. Garibaldi reds (these reds were named after the Italian hero whose soldiers wore red shirts in the late 1800’s) and a machine-sewn indigo binding weren’t clues to its date. The back was made of feed sacks advertising a Kansas mill. Baptist Fan was the quilting design.

A Missouri Daisy/Friendship Star quilt was made by Cathy’s Grandmother Sarah Peel and her paternal great-grandmother. The 1930 pink and white quilt was most likely made in Weaver, IA. Ice Cream Cone border completed the quilt.

Irish_Chain.jpg (128380 bytes)Cousin Elizabeth Anderson made the top, Great Aunt Laura Holiday of Ottumwa, IA gave the batting and Betty’s mother hand quilted this 1953 graduation quilt. This Irish Chain in blues and whites is a family treasure.


Illinois member, Marian, brought two quilts and her daughter Jane to do the talking. The first quilt is known as an Anvil by the family. Emma Heidrich Holstrman made the blue chambray squares from men’s work shirts. The second quilt was made in 1941 by Emma. The aqua Penny Squares displayed tiny embroidery stitches. The family has learned about the unfortunate effects of sun on fabric. Lots of quilting was done by Emma and her Baptist Church daughters.

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Hearts set together to form flowers was the Wedding Quilt owned by Delilah of Decatur County, Iowa. This show stopper in red, green and white has a twin, which was given to Delilah’s sister. The quilting is of a vase of flowers, and a vine border with half feathers add to the quilt. Having complete provenance, words and family pictures is a quilt historian’s dream. 

Our Susan finds wonderful Iowa quilts to share with us. Hubert Ver Mehren of Des Moines designed the Sirius Star Medallion quilt. A bit of astronomy lesson followed - Sirius meaning the brightest star, blue star or Dog Star found in the Canis Major constellation. Susan’s blue, yellow and white star measures 75” x75”. This quilt came from Ohio and was purchased on eBay. Hubert’s designs were sold in catalogues, newspaper ads and the Royal Neighbor of America Insurance Company newsletter. Mr. Ver Mehren did not produce kits with pre-cut pieces; he stamped the shapes on fabric for the customer to cut-out.

Miscell_birds__Shot__2.jpg (135233 bytes)Misc_Birds___shot__1.jpg (97095 bytes)The eye-catching embroidery award went to Shirley’s Miscellaneous Birds quilt made by Twylann Cushing in 1990 in Rockford, IL. The quilt was quilted in 1998. This artist would use magazine pictures as a guide and then, using exquisite embroidery stitches, recreate the birds. Several of the birds are not common in Iowa, such as the Besick Hen and Red Capped Robin.

It was at this time that Andi unveiled IIQSG’s new periodical “Pieces of Time: A Quilt and Textile History Magazine.” This publication effort, we think the first from a small quilt study group, will produce two issues a year based loosely on each meeting’s study topic. The inaugural issue features articles on a Women’s Relief Corp quilt (Marilyn Woodin), Susan Wildemuth’s excellent research on Mary Wolf and on Virigina Snow Studios, Redwork and more. Also included are Herstories (biographies of quilters), quilt history book reviews, editorials and IIQSG member news. To purchase your copy, contact $11 (includes s/h). Own a piece of history. For article submission guidelines use the above email address.

Show and share continued with our Minnesota member, Rosie, sharing her Dresden Plate. Its medallion setting made this a most attractive quilt of a popular pattern. Found in an Iowa antique store, this yellow/cheddar sateen and multi-colored plates was most likely made in the 1930’s or 40’s. Echo quilting around the 15 medallions was done on a grid and included hearts.  

Pat Speth, author of Nickel Quilts and More Nickel Quilts, brought the original antique quilt purchased on eBay and the fabric swatches for her next line of fabric by Windham. Without labels it will impossible to identify the antique from the reproduction quilts.

Since our last meeting, Marilyn found a Redwork quilt to share. The quilt was purchased at auction from a store in Dubuque, IA. The wonderful motifs were expertly done and varied from those seen at the August 2005 meeting.

Marilyn_s_Hired_Man_Quilt.jpg (129196 bytes)Marilyn W. showed an Ohio/Indiana Amish hired man’s quilt. It was made in 1930-40 by an unknown Amish woman. Hired men’s quilts were not necessarily used for hired men, but these quilts have acquired that kind of title. They are for a bed like a day bed. Some were thought to be for an elongated crib, but it would have had to be quite a long crib – hence the name “hired man’s quilt.”

Marilyn Woodin amazes us with her quilt shows; each one tops the last. A tour of the basket quilts at the Kalona Quilt and Textile Museum had most of us speechless. This was a once in a lifetime exhibit of quilts. The quilts came from IIQSG members’ collections, the museum and other donors. A mixture of rich, solid colored Amish Baskets hung next to utilitarian pieced baskets and the always awe-inspiring Marie Webster Appliqued Baskets.

Some of the Reif Spool Cabinet Collection, the largest private collection of spool cabinets in the United States, complimented the quilts wonderfully.

A tasty salad lunch was served by the United Christian Baptist Church members.

The afternoon found the church sanctuary filled with participants’ basket quilts. The quilts were laid across the pews in divisions of pieced, appliqué and mixed techniques of construction. All members were experts, with each sharing the provenance on the quilts they brought. The groups’ knowledge was shared as we identified the ages of the quilts; this proved a delightful question and answer activity. The stumper of the day was a baffling one. The quilt didn’t want to fit into any one age until its owner, Shirley, said the antique fabric backing was used in that it was the only piece of fabric that fit the contemporary top.

The on-going IIQSG Redwork Fund Raiser top was shown pinned together. $3 for a 5” square and $5 for a 10” square of muslin and floss. The squares are to be embroidered and returned to IIQSG when finished. As an Educational Auxiliary of the Kalona Quilt and Textile Museum, this old fashion fund raiser will help IIQSG provide funds to maintain the collection. Contact Virginia Berger: 214 S. 13th St., Adel, IA 50003, (515) 993-1098

Another fund-raising project is the sale of photo CDs of the show and share portion of each meeting. A PC-compatible CD of the August 2005 is available for $6 (includes s/h). Future meeting CDs will be available, too. Order from

Circle August 5, 2006 for the next IIQSG meeting at Kalona Historical Village, Kalona, Iowa. The study topic will be Kit Quilts, lead by Shirley McElderry, Deb Rake, and Rosie Werner.

Respectfully submitted – Catherine Noll Litwinow


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