Patches From the Past
Scraps of Fabric, Sewing & Quilting History

A Century of Quilts
from the book "Heavenly Patchwork: Quilt Stories Stitched With Love"

~ as told by 101 year old Maude Chenoweth Leaman ~

Christmas on the Farm

The day dawned cool and crisp. Eight-year-old Maude Chenoweth could hardly wait to help Papa cut down a Christmas tree. She had already been making paper ring garlands and popcorn chains to trim it. It was Christmas Eve and excitement was everywhere.

"Come on Papa, let's get the horse and wagon and go out into the field to cut our Christmas tree," Maude prodded as she jumped up and down in excitement.

Papa quickly harnessed the horse. Maude and her older brother Earl jumped in the wagon just as snowflakes started falling. "This is going to be the best Christmas ever," Earl exclaimed as they cut down and loaded the biggest cedar tree they could find.

Maude's bird quilt

Little Maude was Mama's extra right hand -- helping in the vegetable garden, feeding pigs, milking cows, churning butter, making bread, and sewing. After they set the tree up outside the front door and decorated it, Maude hurriedly started mixing and kneading the dough for the 12 loaves of bread she helped Mama make each week. After all the chores and cleaning up after dinner, she stayed up late cutting paper dolls out of a catalog, backing them with cardboard, and dressing them in scraps of calico from the dresses and quilts she and Mama had made.

"I'm making dolls for all the mothers and girls, and hemming feedsack handkerchiefs for all the men and boys." Maude explained as her mother started to send her to bed. "Please let me stay up until I'm finished. I want to surprise all my aunts and uncles and cousins with a gift when they come tomorrow." Exhausted as she finished the last gift, Maude fell into a sound sleep.

The next morning, Maude raced from her bed to discover what Santa had left in her stocking. She tore open the wrappings and found a beautiful doll -- her first real doll. She hugged her mama and papa with tears running down her cheek and exclaimed, "She's beautiful!"

Papa carefully hung the exquisite doll out of harm's way on the wall behind the potbellied stove. Maude dutifully helped Mama with the morning chores.

As Earl had predicted, the Christmas of 1912 was the best one ever. When the rest of the family arrived, a filling Christmas dinner was served. Everyone loved their handmade paper dolls and hankies. The group of cousins built snowmen and the adults inspected the almost completed two-story addition onto the little two-room house. Then they all gathered inside to hear the Bible story of Jesus in the manger. They sang carols while Mama played the old pump organ. What a celebration to remember!

Two days later, Maude began to sew clothes and a tiny quilt for her prized doll. In horror, she discovered the face was running down and all deformed. To everyone's surprise, the doll was made of wax and had gotten a little too close to that potbellied stove.

Maude cried herself to sleep that night as Mama rocked her. Little Maude never forgot what Mama told her that night, "When life gives you scraps, make a quilt." Maude was learning early in life to look for the good in every circumstance.

Marriage Frontier Style

find  this book at Eighteen-year-old Maude nervously stood, dressed in her Grandmother Chenoweth's white lace and pearl wedding gown. Mama piled her long hair on top of her head to pin the veil in place. Maude suddenly burst into tears, "Mama, I'm scared to death. Were you this jittery on your wedding day?"

Mama assured Maude that her jitters were normal. "You will be fine when you see Clarence, you'll see!"

Neighbors and family had gathered from nearby farms. They brought quilts and other gifts to help the new couple set up housekeeping. The traveling minister performed the ceremony in the beautiful flowering garden of their two-story clapboard farmhouse. After a buffet lunch, cake and punch, the guests bid the newly married couple farewell as they took off in her father's Model A Ford with tin cans clanging.

The young couple stayed busy. Clarence worked a variety of jobs; Maud continued to help her mama and papa with the chores and responsibilities of raising her nine younger siblings as much as she could. Clarence and Maude began a family of their own with the birth of a son.

When the Great Depression hit and Clarence lost his job, Maude encouraged him to set up his own electrician's shop. Maude worked 12 hour days beside her husband as bookkeeper, receptionist, store manager, and mother to three rambunctious boys.

Every night after tucking their boys into bed, she pulled out her needle and thread and her sewing machine. She made their clothing and new quilt tops to cover their old tattered and well-worn quilts to keep them warm. She milked a cow every morning before work, and paid her neighbor with milk to quilt her tops. Life without daughters and working full-time at the shop meant that Maude had to raise a garden and do all the domestic chores without help and with little money to waste on store-bought items.

Whenever she started feeling sorry for herself, Maude would pick up her piecing and quilting to chase away the gloomies. She gave herself a good talking-to, suggesting she change her attitude. It was during these lean years, that Maude was forced to trust in the Lord to supply all their needs and renew her strength.

Economic times were hard. Clarence moved his little family to Oklahoma City in search of a better life. Maude took in washing and ironing, babysitting and sewing for a dollar a day, and found a job as an alterations seamstress to pay the mortgage on a little house in 1943.

Over the years, Maude and Clarence provided a home for many members of their extended family. Their generosity took many forms. Maude never forgot working all day, coming home to fix dinner and cleaning up for eight people, then quilting until 2 a.m. They always had a quilting frame set up in the living room for Mama to quilt on during the day. The only problem was that Mama could only quilt in one direction, so Maude had to stay up late to quilt from the opposite direction so Mama could continue quilting the next day.

Maude's hands were never idle, but always helping someone, quilting, crocheting or sewing doll clothes. She was convinced her heavenly Father was in control and never doubted His everlasting love. But it was her quilting that calmed her down and enabled her to change her focus from self-pity to praising God again.


2004 Maude Chenoweth Leaman (do not reproduce this article without permission from the author)

Published with permission from "Heavenly Patchwork: Quilt Stories Stitched With Love"
Look here to find sample stories.

Find Maude's story and many others in
Heavenly Patchwork: Quilt Stories Stitched With Love

Hand Quilting History: Gathering Around the Frame
Learn more about the kinds of quilting frames used in the past.

[ Aurora Colony Quilts | Family Memories | Wedding Dresses | Talking Quilts ]
[ Family Quilting History | Gift of Tradition | Grandmother's Crazy Quilt ]
[ Alliance for American Quilts | Quilters Hall of Fame | Quilt Care |Century of Quilts ]