Saturday, December 17, 2016

World War II Quilts

Sue Reich's extensive research on quilts made during World War II was a labor of love, inspired by her father's service. Drawing from newspaper accounts and articles she presents the history of the war and the home front as seen through the quilts of that era.
The result is a mammoth book with a whopping 335 color photographs, many quilts featured full page and in detail. Accompanying news articles, pattern sources, ephemera, advertising, and photographs illustrate war time history on the home front.

Woman were called upon to do their part in the war effort, not only in factory work but in employing their sewing and needlework skills. With manufacturing geared to war efforts families had to 'make do'; women mended and altered old clothes. Scraps were used to make quilts, which were promoted in newspapers as part of the patriotic 'waste not, want not' lifestyle. Feedsacks were printed with patterns and used for clothes and home furnishings.

Reich identifies the kinds of quilts made during the war: Patriotic quilts in red, white and blue; quilts with iconic Military themes; Red Cross and other organization related donation quilts; fund-raising quilts; and common pattern quilts made during 1920-1950.

The quilts shared in the book include an amazing array of construction: pieced, applique, embroidered, and even hand painted. Furthermore, there are quilts made of various textiles such as Sweetheart Pillows, feedsack, parachute fabric, home furnishing fabrics, pre-printed Military theme linens, and with even quilts Navy and Army Insignia badges.

Quilts presented include those made by well known quilt artists such as Bertha Stenge's OPA (Office of Price Administration) Quilt and her Four Freedom's Quilt. An embroidered Remember Pearl Harbor quilt; includes images of President Roosevelt giving a radio talk and Eleanor Roosevelt, the USS Oklahoma, female service persons, Uncle Sam, and  in the center"X+Y+X=V". Quilts commemorate President Franklin D. Roosevelt, his wife Eleanor, and even FDR's beloved Fala. The Roosevelt Rose quilt by Minnie Pearl Pardee Barrett used a 1938 applique pattern by Ruth Finley. An amazing quilt by Callie Jeffress Fanning Smith, The Eleanor Roosevelt Alum portrayed the First Lady from childhood to the White House through applique, embroidery, and hand painted faces.

The mother of Robert Howe, who was serving in the Coast Guard, made a quilt with embroidered details of  their family history and her son's service. The Bataan Death March Quilt made by Ida Johnson Beattie and a Gold Star Mother's Quilt by Callie Shaeffer with embroidered names perhaps brought solace to the grieving.
Victory quilts featuring "V" were made in applique, embroidery, and pieced blocks.
There are patriotic red, white and blue quilts including many star variations. American symbols on the quilts include the flag, eagles, stars, war related slogans, government agencies, and branches of the military. Airplane quilts in various patterns were popular.

The Music Teacher's Quilt is made of embroidered music and words to thirty American songs, from My Old Kentucky Home, Old Folks at Home and The Quilting Party to Call Out the Navy, America he Beautiful, and A Gold Star Mother's Prayer.

Honor Roll Quilts gave tribute to those called to serve during wartime. The Clinch/Locust Methodist Church created an Honor Roll Banner to represent the 155 men and women from the church who went to war.

Fundraising quilts included embroidered names. Red Cross Quilts with official labels reading "American Red Cross Chapter-Not to be sold" were sent to European victims of war. 

Reich presents an amazing history of the Changi Quilts, including details of the makers. women who were trapped in Singapore and sent to the Changi Jail internment camp. Under inhuman conditions, the women created three quilts for the British, Australian, and Japanese soldiers. Using flour sacks and bed sheets the women appliqued and embroidered personal messages and images from their life present and past.

New quilt patterns were published in newspapers and magazines, and fabrics with war related themes and in American colors were printed. One of my favorites are the Rainbow Block Company Victory quilt, beautiful designs of floral "V" blocks.

The quilting enthusiast and those interested in Women's History will find World War II Quilts a wonderful resource.

Reich has also written World War I Quilts, Quilts Presidential and Patriotic, and Quilt News of Yesteryear, all available at Schiffer Publications. 

I received a free book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Sue Reich
Schiffer Publications
$39.95
ISBN 13: 9780764334511