Oct 14, 2021

Quilts and Quilting: In History, the News, Superstitions and On Our Beds

If you have a cat then you most likely know that cats love quilts! And sure they love fuzzy blankets, boxes, baskets and other surfaces. Science has even shown that if you use tape applied to a floor in a square, cats will still climb inside! Crazy right!?!
But even crazier is the saying "Shake the cat." Shaking is not literal it just means something closer to shake down. Removing something you want out of something else. And if your cat is on your favorite quilt, or one that might be for someone else (someone who might have cat allergies for example) then removing cats from quilts is a whole 'nother thing! And good luck to you!
But there are also traditions and superstitions that the old phrase "shake the cat" came from. And what about other superstitions-especially ones having to do with quilts and quilting?


At long-ago quilting bees, "shaking the cat" meant that a cat was placed on a quilt and usually four girls would grasp the edges and shake the quilt. When the cat jumped off, the girl closest to the cat would marry next!

(Seriously?  They shook a cat?  Oh my! Poor cat!)

2. Some quilters believe that if you sleep under a new quilt, your dreams will come true.

(I certainly hope this doesn't include bad dreams! I sleep under 2 quilts in the summer but five quilts in the winter!)

3. Some quilters believe that if a thread broke while quilting, it would bring bad luck.

(Well now, that explains a lot of things as well as accidental Amish --which traditionally included one imperfect block--quilts!) Stay humble quilters and hide your vanity quilts!

4. Quilt lore suggests that the center squares of log cabin quilts were usually red, to signify the heart and hearth of the home.

(Indeed!  And my heart and a little quilted heart are always part of my quilts signature elements!)

5. Hawaiian quilt lore says that those who make "Ulu" their first quilt will always have abundance.

(The`ulu (breadfruit) quilt was often the first quilt made to insure plentiful food and prosperity to the maker.

 6. The earliest recorded example of quilting can be found on a garment worn by a carved ivory statue from Egypt in 3400 B.C.

Awesome and very interesting! I never knew some statues wear quilts though I've seen a few  wearing face masks in the news lately! And then there's that rapper at the 2021 Met Gala. 

Wrapped in a very puffy quilt that a fashion designer embroidered his first name on claiming design rights. Guess what?  

She had dozens and dozens and dozens of inherited quilts so she donated the this puffy quilt to a thrift shop.  And that designer had purchased it and claimed design rights. Leading us to wonder if he made the quilt and then turned it into a garmet. Answer is neither.

By giving the quilt to someone else turn it into an evening "wrap".  Interesting--what!? 
The oldest actual quilt still in existence is also from Egypt, from 980 B.C.. This quilt, held in a museum in Cairo is made from colored gazelle leather.

(Poor gazelle! And the cats thought they had it bad! No wonder gazelles run so fast!)

7. Piecing together a quilt as a memorial for departed loved ones has a long history.

(Indeed but not as great or long as our own memories of them! Love memory quilts!)

In 1987, a group of activists formed the NAMES Project Foundation, and began gathering quilt panels stitched together by people who had lost loved ones to AIDS.

The Aids Memorial  Quilt continues to grow, and new panels are received every week. The quilt is now way too large to be displayed in its entirety.

In October of 1996, it covered the entire National Mall in Washington, D.C., and weighed approximately 50 tons!

(A major effort and beautiful example of loving and accepting others as we do our own loved ones and honoring all health struggles that lead to loss.)

8. Early schoolteachers used thimbles as  "must-have quilting tools" to enforce strict discipline. The teacher would knock disobedient students on the top of the head with a thimbled finger.  

(Oh dear! Poor thimbles!)

The term “thimble knocking” was used by "ladies of the evening'  around the same time period.  They used a thimble on their finger to knock on the window glass to attract the attention of males walking by.

(Oh my goodness! Who knew?  Ladies! Be careful when wearing your thimbles NOT to knock on the window to get someone's attention. It might not be the kind of attention you meant! )

During the 1800s, a thimble was used as a spirit measure or alcohol shot glass, helping coin the phrase, “Only a thimbleful.”

(Caution! When experiencing a bad quilting day, look out for repeated thimblefuls!)

9. One old quilt superstition says you must never make human figures on a quilt. It is believed that the figures will walk and visit you at night.

(Darn these Sunbonnet Sue's and Sam's, away! away! No wonder I don't sleep well at night!)

10. Another superstition is that if you make a quilt, be sure to finish it or marriage will l never come to you.

(Lucky my marriage came BEFORE my first unfinished quilt! Because they're stacked up ever since and even more in my pile once 3 kids and  4 grandkids came along!)

11. Tulips in quilt patterns signify love, pineapples indicate hospitality.

(So breadfruit, tulips, and pineapples are all good on quilts so far! Glad i made a tulip pillow at least! Sorry breadfruit and pineapples!)

12. Postage Stamp Quilts are made as the name suggests -- each square is the size of a postage stamp and a quilt may contain many thousands of these tiny pieces of cloth.

(My closest quilt to a postage stamp was one honoring free precut 2" aquarist!  Are those considered  "extra large collectors stamps"? 
But the recipients haven't known the difference at least! But it was pretty clear that this quiltmaker must have been given all those tiny little cut squares as I don't have the patience much less the hand agility anymore to scissor cut thousands of squares!)

13. There are many quilts most of us hope hope to make some day, but many quilter's greatest ambition is a Dear Jane Quilt.

The Jane Stickle quilt was made during the American Civil War. She signed her quilt "In War Time 1863."

(Its take me from now until 2063 and then both the quilt and the still-living quilter would BOTH be miracles!)

Jane created a masterpiece consisting of 169 4.5"square blocks surrounded by fifty-two 8"x5" triangles and four corner triangles.

She pieced and appliquéd her blocks and every block is different!

And I love those amazing quilts and their even more amazing quilters!

But right now I'm worn out from creating my clever to me in my own mind comments.

It's almost winter. Going to climb under my 5 quilts for a bit of a rest with a good book now and oh yes my cat! I used to have three cats all piled in a line on me in bed. Does that make me a square tripled? Thank you very much dear cats. If you were dogs it'd be called a "three dog night!"

Happy Quilting to all of you hopefully Happy Quilters! Dont walk under any ladders carrying your unfinished quilts and step on a black cat! Poor thing is always being tossed about as it is!!!

Sleep well all of you cats allowed on quilts. Dogs too!


And Chickens? Yes my newly hatched chicks had their own quilt placed on their screening roof inside my house at night!

  Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands as she shares her imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon.

 Currently fluctuating between #32 and #56 . Now #48. Just scroll their site until you find me (look for my pink and wine art quilt logo) and hit subscribe in their feed.  

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Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands as she shares her imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon. Creating, designing, sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting... from my heart and with my hands

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