The group of quilters at the Rippey United Methodist Church is among several in Greene County that hand quilt.
Machine quilting has become very popular in recent years, but there is still a need for hand quilting. Antique and older quilts should really be hand quilted. Some of those quilts come from estate sales, antique shops or Grandma’s attic. Sometimes the history of the quilt is known, and sometimes it is a mystery.
One of the most popular older quilts that we have quilted is “Grandma’s Flower Garden.” The older quilts were made with small pieces of fabric saved from old dresses or shirts. Our grandmothers were the first “re-cyclers.” This is much different from today when fabric is purchased, cut into small pieces and then sewn back together.
The group that meets in Rippey must have started about 40 years ago when we moved to the “new” church. In the beginning there were several women who quilted, and there could be two quilts in frames. Other ladies worked on other projects, one of which was cutting and sewing cloth strips for rag rugs. The balls of strips were taken to Jessie Shriver in Paton to be woven. At noon, a potluck dinner was held, and the husbands joined the group for the meal. The women returned to quilting, and the men did the dishes. Today’s group meets each Tuesday morning and stops for coffee at 10 a.m., and they are joined by others from the community.
Jan Friess and I recently put a quilt in the frames and needed an extra set of hands. We enlisted the aid of Mary Weaver, who is not a quilter, but was a “good student” as we pinned the back to the frames, clamped the four frames together and placed it on the standards. Then Mary learned how to place and smooth the batting on the backing and place the quilt top as the top layer. The next lesson she learned was there is a lot of smoothing, stretching, and pinning.
Those studying women’s history believe the neighborhood or church quilting groups were the grass roots of women obtaining the right to vote as well as the right to hold property back in the early 1900s. One can imagine Iowa women having those kinds of conversations over the quilting frame. Quilting groups have been, and continue to be, an important part of history in Greene County and beyond.
The author of this story, Velda DeMoss, is a member of the Greene County Historical Society board of directors. You can write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.