Saturday, August 6, 2016

Suit Sample Quilt

Today I have another of those quilts mother gave me as we were cleaning out the barn. At the time I didn't much appreciate it and took it out of sheer politeness. I thought it was the ugliest thing I had ever laid eyes on. However, this quilt has a unique story behind it as quilts often do, if only we knew it or would listen.
As you will see from the pictures I didn't know much about quilts back in the day, and since I didn't like it much, I didn't take proper care of it. When it came to me, aside from a few moth chews from being in the barn, it was in pretty good condition. The back was made of a cherry red cloth, but because it smelled like the barn, I made the mistake of throwing it in the washing machine. It was not colorfast and bled red all through the quilt. I washed it another three times trying to get the red out and it didn't stop running. I dried the quilt outside on a clothes line and after that we used it to pack furniture in our many moves, or hung it on the back porch swing, where the back faded to the color you see today.
I wish now I had listened more closely when mother told me about this quilt, for I cannot remember who she said exactly made it. Only that it was made from the suit samples of her grandpa, Harry Marshall Scearce. He was a suit salesmen at the time of his death, for Jay Marks or J. Marx out of Portland, Oregon. (I could not find this company, so further research is needed.) He was also a representative for the Apple Growers Association of Hood River, and traveled all over the United States. Sadly he died suddenly of a heart attack while on his way back from Hermiston, Oregon in 1928.
Here is where the puzzle comes in. Were these suit samples the ones he had with him when he died? If they were, than the only person who could have made this quilt was his daughter in-law, Wanda Dale Roberts-Scearce. Otherwise known in our family as Grandma Matie, for his dear wife, our grt. grandma, Anne Elston Krout-Scearce, had died the year before he did in 1927. If on the other hand these were quilt sample's he already had, which he gave to his family, then the quilt could have been made by either his wife or Matie. Whoever made it, they made it entirely by machine. The closest date I can come to dating this quilt is 1925-1928.
I know that these two women made their own clothes and were fine seamstresses, but it takes a whole other skill set to be good with a sewing machine. Whoever sewed this did not have a lot of skill using a machine. I think that this was sewn right after they got the machine and therefore its construction is not so good. Either that or they were never good on a machine and should have stuck to hand sewing.

 As you can see none of this is quilted, it is just tied down with dark red wool yarn.
How sad, so bad of me to mistreat this poor thing. You can barely see some of the original red, and even that is not nearly as bright as it first was.
To tell the truth the blocks are sewn together rather well, and there corners line up nicely, it is the backing on the quilt that is so terrible. Just look at that edge stitching. It must have been hard feeding the bulky edge of this quilt through that old machine.

Some of these suit colors are really wild. How about a suit in Lincoln Green?! You would look like Robin Hood. Did you notice the over-all pattern of dark light, dark light? She did a nice job of block layout. Still, the poor thing is made of very itchy wool and I feel sorry for the fellows who had suits made of that stuff.

Note: I had to wash this again the other day, since our move. Fortunately due to a product called, "Soak", which is made for natural fibers. I was able to get most of the red color back our of the wool blocks. What a wonderful product I highly recommend it.

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