Friday 9 January 2015

Having a (snow) ball!

In our little corner of the globe, today is a ‘snow day’.  A winter storm is pushing through the county, snow is falling in ever increasing amounts and schools are cancelled to the delight of children everywhere.

This winter wonderland brings to mind an exceptional quilt in our collection.  Known as “The Snowball Quilt”, it is a feminine concoction of whites, pale pinks and tans, with a few splashes of brighter shades thrown into the mix. The colours have softened over time but the fabric – and the stitching – holds fast and firm. In all, the quilt is made up of 11,396 pieces carefully sewn together by hand. It was produced in the 1870s by Minnie Main Frost (later, Minnie Northrup). The quilt is widely admired whenever it makes an appearance in a display but its most remarkable detail is hidden to the eye; the quilt was made when Minnie was just 11 years old.

Although it seems so foreign today, children like Minnie were more than familiar with skills such as sewing at a very young age. All members of a family contributed to the care of the household and children were no exception.  Minnie had obviously mastered needle and thread when she embarked on this project, although family lore has it that the quilt was initially started as a practice quilt for her doll’s bed. Minnie was encouraged by her family, however, to ‘keep at it’ and the result is this full sized quilt of over 11,000 pieces and countless hand stitches. Whether a first quilting attempt or not, the piece is remarkable for its perfect alignments, number of pieces, and precise stitching.

How many ‘snow days’ might it have taken Minnie to create her masterpiece? Perhaps today is the day to resume our own unfinished projects in the linen cupboard; or it could be the perfect moment to show another generation how to start their own.  See what you can create for posterity – have a (snow) ball!

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