Tickets for the quilt raffle go on sale this week at the Ouray County Historical Museum and will soon be available at stores all over town, selling in sets of two for $5 or five for $10.
The quilt is historic because it is made from a newspaper pattern published in 1930 from fabric saved just for that purpose by Hazel Duckett Weston, mother of longtime resident Margaret Duckett, said museum volunteer Sue Hillhouse.
Hillhouse is one of a group of women who researched the background of the quilt and then made it completely by hand.
Just like today, newspapers were in trouble in the 1930s, Hillhouse said, and publishing blocks of a quilt pattern each week helped built circulation of many papers, including the Denver Post.
Quilters designed the patterns, and the one produced by the museum volunteers is titled, “The Magic Vine,” which was designed by Florence LaGanke Harris, a home economist from Ohio, Hillhouse said.
“In the 1930s, newspapers were trying to sell subscriptions, and they were very successfully publishing a quilt with a block of the week,” Hillhouse said. “They were syndicated in newspapers all over the country and kind of revived quilting.”
It was the Great Depression, she said, and women were looking for something practical that was creative and gave vent to artistic expression.
“A lot of quilts used old clothing and sometimes were fabric scraps,” she said. “So many made their clothes at home.”
Harris published her quilt patterns in the Post under the penname Nancy Page, along with stories about a fictitious Nancy Page Quilting Club where members discussed colors and patterns and traded quips.
“Florence published many of these in various newspapers and Mrs. Duckett collected patterns and fabrics for two quilts, both Nancy Page quilts,” Hillhouse said. “I picked ‘The Magic Vine’ because I thought it was prettier.”
Eleven women, including Hillhouse, worked for weeks to complete the quilt just as Hazel and other women in the community would have done.
Starting in February, the women met weekly at the Ridgway Library to appliqué the floral blocks and vine border, Hillhouse said. When the top was done, they decided the quilt had to be quilted by hand, not machine, even though many were novices. One member had an old quilting frame, so the women met in her house for the next month to quilt the top to the backing.
“The quilting finished, the scalloped edge bound and artistic quilt label with the quilt’s history was proudly attached,” Hillhouse said. The quilt will soon be on display at the museum at 420 Seventh Ave.
Hillhouse will give a presentation on the history of “The Magic Vine” quilt at a Quilters’ Tea on July 22, the first day of the museum’s Annual Quilt Show, which will run through Aug. 28. The public is invited to the tea “for a bit of Ouray quilting history and to view the show,” Hillhouse said. Tickets are $5. For reservations, call the museum at 325-4576.
An excerpt from Hillhouse’s presentation gives a glimpse into Ouray County’s quilting past:
“Newspaper quilt patterns of the 1930s filled a need and entertained thousands of women in the U.S., including Hazel Duckett Weston of Ridgway. Hazel was the grandmother of Roger Duckett when Roger’s family ran the Pioneer Market in Ridgway.
“Quilt patterns by many designers were published weekly in newspapers in rural states of the country. The Kansas City Star began the syndicated patterns in 1926 but soon thereafter, many other newspapers picked up on the idea because the patterns were responsible for selling newspapers during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
“The patterns renewed an interest in American women in the folk art of quilting and provided quilts that could be used in a most practical way for the family…the outcome was a rebirth in interest in this art form which has continued and blossomed today.”
The group who made the quilt is about half from Ridgway and half from Ouray. Ridgway quilters, including Hillhouse, were Joan Chismire, Joan Moyer, Sandy Michaud, Norma Shafer, and Mary Stapleton. Ouray quilters were Susie Opdahl, Nancy Rule, Margaret Metzger, Britta Rueschoff, and Marianne Zegers.
As the women took on the project, they found unexpected rewards as they recreated history, Hillhouse said.
“We found it a social gathering, as women have loved to do for years and years,” she said. “We even found as we sat around the frame that this is such a neat way to get together and share what is going on in your life. It’s a real friendship builder.”
Many of the women had never quilted before, Hillhouse said, but that’s the way it would have been back in Hazel’s day.
“There’s a variation in skill level on the quilt, but that’s the way it would have been back then, because not everyone was an expert,” she said.
When the quilt was finished, washed and laid out to dry, Hillhouse said the women were all stunned at its beauty.
Maria Jones, director of the museum, said though the annual Jeep Raffle is the best known drawing during Oktoberfest, the quilt raffle has grown in popularity over the years.
The museum will also raffle off a replica of a 1950 Electra bicycle, which Jones called “gorgeous.”
All three raffles will be held at the communitywide Oktoberfest celebration on Oct. 3 from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Ouray Community Center.