History Connection: Lake Oswego connection to quilts dates back 100 years
Last September Rick Cook took ten family heirloom quilts — some quilted 100 years ago — to Lake Oswego Montavilla Sewing Center to be documented for family records and for the Quilt Index. A project of Michigan State University, the Quilt Index is a national clearinghouse of information about quilts, quilt makers and the quilting process throughout the U.S. (http://quiltindex.org/2018/welcome.php).
"My great grandmother and my grandmother stitched the Hearts and Gizzards quilt," relates Cook proudly. "They say this quilt won ribbons at state and county fairs. I would like to display the Hearts and Gizzards pattern on the west side of our barn at the Shipley-Cook Farmstead over the chicken coop."
Displaying a quilt pattern painted on a piece of plywood and mounted on the side of a barn was inspired by the Quilt Barn Trail Project of Washington County (https://tualatinvalley.org/local-favorites/tours-routes-trails/quilt-barn-trail/).
"Grandma also made the Crazy Quilt," Cook says. "She started that after having polio when she was 11 then set it aside for several years, finishing it in 1959 as a gift for my dad's 30th birthday. Friends and neighbors would bring her pieces of velvet and would teach her new stitches. All those different stitches she used is why the quilt was named Crazy Quilt. The maroon velvet border came from her mother's wedding dress."
"It was a very interesting day," Cook recalls about the two-part documentation process. "I received in the mail a quilt history form for each quilt which I had to complete and bring to my documentation appointment, then there is a physical inspection of the quilt. Trained volunteers from the Oregon Quilt Project review the history, the forms and conduct the physical inspection."
During the look-see part of the documentation, the quilt is opened flat on a table resembling a bed frame. Information about the batting, top, back and condition are recorded. Then it is measured and its pattern noted, using several universally accepted references. Next a photograph of the quilt(s) is taken and the quilt owner receives a registration number (for each quilt). This should be sewn on the back of the quilt. If the owner decides to share the information and photo on The Quilt Index, a release form is signed.
Cook notes that all ten documented quilts are now in the Quilt Index database. "Since its inception 10 years ago, The Oregon Quilt Project has documented 1,500 quilts," states Mary Bywaters Cross, quilt historian, author and Oregon Quilt Project board member, "and we hope to have documented hundreds more by the time the project ends this spring. The last documentation day will be this April.
Mary Bywaters Cross and Joan Beck, Oregon Quilt Project volunteers, shared this story about the reunion of the Gere family quilts. The quilt had been officially documented by Oregon Quilt Project volunteers at a documentation day in eastern Oregon. Identified as a Redwork pattern — red embroidery on a white background — the pattern is a series of circles depicting names of the Gere family. Every year the quilt, referred to as the wedding quilt, is handed down to the oldest member of the family. As far as they knew, the quilt had never left the family.
Imagine the surprise when a quilt of the same Redwork pattern of names embroidered in circles of red thread was brought to a different documentation day in a different location. Oregon Quilt Project volunteers knew they had seen the pattern before. Is it possible there was a second quilt that the Gere family never knew about? They invited the Geres to come (from eastern Oregon) to documentation day in Lake Oswego, and they invited the owner of the second quilt, a Lake Oswego woman who received the quilt from a friend, to bring her quilt.
Placing the quilts side by side, volunteers confirmed both quilts had been made by the Gere family. The Lake Oswego owner graciously offered to sell her quilt back to the Geres. Although the Geres now possess the two quilts, the mystery remains how the quilts became separated.
The word quilt comes from the Latin culcita meaning a stuffed sack, but it came into the English language from the French word cuilte. The origins of quilting remain unknown, but historians have recorded that quilting, piecing and applique were used for clothing and furnishings in diverse parts of the world in early times.
Sources: Oregon Quilt Project website, Oregon Quilt Index website, Quilt Barn Trail website,
Lake Oswego Review articles, Rick Cook, Mary Bywaters Cross, Joan Beck.