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Beauty in Hard Times
Depression Era Quilts in Nebraska

Embroidered Quilts

The abundance of patterns in published sources during the Great Depression led to the production of many quilts of the same pattern. Popular patterns of the era included the Double Wedding Ring, Grandmother's Flower Garden, Dresden Plate, Postage Stamp, and Irish Chain. They called for the use of small pieces of fabric, which allowed the use of scrap fabric-a plus in hard economic times. Nebraska quilters were also fond of embroidered quilts, whose popularity increased in the state in the 1920s and 1930s.

Nebraska Farmer
February 1938

November 1929

Home Arts Needlecraft,

September 1936

Embroidered Quilt

Mary Ellen Skinner King
Made in North Bend, Nebraska
74.75" x 65.75"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Nancy Evans, Mesa, Arizona

Mary Ellen "Matie" Skinner King made this embroidered quilt in the late 1930s for her granddaughter's hope chest.


Floral Album Quilt

Edna Jeppson and Mrs. Higgins
Made in Wahoo, Nebraska
98.5" x 75"
Saunders Co. Hist. Soc.

Perhaps influenced by the lighter colors used in fashion in the early twentieth century, textile manufacturers began producing fabric in new lighter colors with a heavy emphasis on pastels. This influence is seen in the color palette of this and other Depression era quilts. Edna Jeppson, the maker of this quilt, donated it to the Saunders County Historical Society in 1977. Edna was born in Mead, Nebraska in 1886 and taught school in Idaho, Washington, Omaha, Lincoln and Mead from 1914 until her retirement in 1950. Edna used pieces of her student's clothing for the flower petals in this quilt design and each petal is embroidered with the name of the student who wore that garment. A Mrs. Higgins did the quilting. The accompanying poem was written by Edna's nephew Roland Nelson and his wife Phyllis:

 Edna's Patchwork Quilt

Miss Jeppson planned this patchwork quilt
As something to behold,
Portraying on the fifteen blocks
Fond memories in each fold.

A flower adorns each block you see
Eight petals bright and clean,
With stems and leaves attached to each
And names stitched in quite near.

Her boys and girls, grades one and two
Brought parts to her to use
Scraps of cloth from clothing worn
Whatever they would choose.

Each scrap of cloth was shaped to form
The petal of a flower,
Identified by names of course
The work took many an hour.

The effort starts in '24
And really never ceases,
For ten years pass before there were
One hundred twenty pieces.

Pajama tops and shirts and pants
Perhaps a sock or two
And pretty dresses, blouses, skirts
Most anything would do,

To call to mind some simple trait
The child had those first years
As she molds character with skill
And lays aside life's fears.

There's Archie Dale and Mary Lou
And Doniver and Phyllis,
Doretta Mae and Iva Dell,
LeRoy, Marie and Ellis.

Marjorie, Eugene and Lyle
Glen and Eleanor,
Milford, Glenice, Wayne and Bobby
Then Teddy-Now the Mayor.

There's Swansons, Johnsons,
Andersons, Ericsons, Gustafsons
Carlsons and Samuelsons,
Bensons, Wilsons, Nelsons and Hansons,
Pearsons, Thompsons and Ackersons.

But there was also-
Frenchs, Springers, Stubblefields, and Klings,
Koneckys, Fleishmanns and Sullivans,
Rezac, Grupe, Gartrel and Rand,
Nitz, Moline and Goeman.

More names of course are on the quilt
More than we can mention,
But each is treasured by itself
And each gets much attention.

The pieces gathered-names stitched in
The blocks were then complete,
One thing remained to still get done
The quilting must be neat.

Across the corner from her home
With room and quilting riggins,
Lived one who rated high in skill
A neighbor-Mrs. Higgins.

Twas she who with ability
Designed the paths of stitches,
Which with the blocks of flowers and names
Enhances and enriches.

The years have past, the children grew
And round the world have traveled,
The cherished quilt remains at home
The names remain unraveled.

Its use reserved for special times
For guests-yes-to be sure,
But those whose names adorns the quilt
Would feel its special lure.

A part of them is in this quilt
And in its' makers heart,
And as each conquers life, she knows
She helped provide the start.

From the 1935 book, The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt,

by Carrie A. Hall and Rose G. Kretsinger


Applique butterflies & flowers
Pearl Engel
Made in Wood River, Nebraska
Probably between 1925-1950
97.75" x 80"
Hastings Museum

Embroidered floral/butterfly appliqué

The Willing Workers Club
Made in Furnas County, Nebraska
85.5" x 71.5"
Furnas County Historical Society

Embroidered Floral Album

Sunny South Side Club
Made in Furnas County, Nebraska
89" x 67"
Furnas County Historical Society


Floral Basket

Murl (Mabel) Brickner Gunnerson
Made in Aurora, Nebraska
80" x 69"

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