Quilting was necessary to produce household items, but it was also an important social outlet, a chance for women to chat while they worked. Quilting parties were common, whether it was a gathering of a handful of women or a lavish tea party with cakes, cookies, and tea served in delicate china. After the quilting, there sometimes were dancing and games. “I think it was an introduction to future betrothals,” Marjollet says. “I think young people really looked forward not only to the quilting, but to the good times.”
Although usually the quilting pieces came from scraps of fabric, the handiwork was often superb, as seen in the minute stitches in a friendship quilt that belonged to Azubah Atwood Mayo. The quilt is dated 1848, three years before she married Francis B. Rogers. The quilt was made by family, friends, and neighbors for Azubah, the niece of Marjory Smith Atwood and links several patterns, including Sunburst, Pincushion, and Chimney Sweep, in vivid colors against a pink and off-white background.
The quilt was given to the Atwood House Museum by the Atwood family, who accompanied it with a note that commemorated “the generations of women in the family whose enormous, multifaceted, and creative talents only begin to be reflected in their quilting.” The words are a testament to the reality of the times: With almost no jobs available to them, quilting was one way women could express their creativity. And with its technical requirements and artistic designs, quilting has its complex side.