While browsing the Q.S.O.S. archive recently, I noticed that many quilters’ earliest memories of quilts and quilt making were of time spent playing or hiding under a quilt frame while it was being quilted. I found almost 30 interviews that recalled long afternoons under the “tent” of a quilt-in-progress (and almost as many that recalled the delicious snacks that would come with these quilting bees!).
Here are a few of those early memories of playing under a quilt frame:
Virginia White Quinn: Oh, my earliest memories are of my mother’s quilting bee. And they used to quilt in the winter. I would come home from school, I cannot remember earlier than that, but I would come home from school and my sister and I would play under the quilting frame. In the morning before we went to school, my dad would set up the quilting frame on stanchions with clamps and he would help Mother set that up in our small, little house. And then all the women would come, I guess, after I’d gone to school. And then when we came home, we’d play under there. And my mother always made Jell-o, fruit Jell-o, and donuts for the dessert for the women and so that was just fabulous.
Virginia Angers Kuglar: My interest in quiltmaking began when I was just a small child and my mother quilted and at that time there were friends in the community that got together and quilted. And, I can remember that the children would always play under the quilt frames, or the quilt, because the quilt then hung from the ceiling. And, as they would roll the quilt and roll the quilt, then when it got down so far to completion, they would run the kids out from under there and we would have to go play someplace else. That was my first memories of quiltmaking.
Nadj Pankey: [M]y father raised me and my aunts that helped take care of me during the daytime, well, my father was a farmer and they took care of me during the daytime and they always had quilts hanging from the ceiling and you’d be surprised how many times I’ve heard that story in my shop, you know, I grew up with a quilt hanging from the ceiling. But I did the same thing, they would put the quilt down in the daytime and they would work on it and they’d raise it back to the ceiling at night for people to sleep in the bed that was in that room and that’s kind of how I got introduced to quilts, and of course, I slept on a quilt always.
Carlie Nichols, who makes quilts for the Quilts of Valor program, says that many of the veterans she gives quilts to have shared their “playing under the quilt frame” stories: