Lucy Bell Clouse was born in Pennsylvania in March of 1838. She was a teacher in Licking County, Ohio who never married. This inspiration quilt is said to have been made by Lucy after she asked her students to bring bits of fabrics from their mothers, grandmothers, and neighbors. She started the quilt in 1851 and finished it in 1860. At least those are the dates she placed on the quilt, and is confirmed by the family story that came with the quilt. There are many little ‘circles’ below the vine border that contain fabric added after the quilt was finished – the brown thread shows through to the back. Lucy also put her initials on the quilt and in the last corner added “SPEC”, surrounded by quilted hearts. We can only guess at who or what they stand for. Lucy did not use one single piece of white fabric for the background; rather she added rows of white fabric as the quilt grew.
I have found this quilt to be a great resource, as it shows the wonderful variety of fabrics that were available to a quilter in the mid-Nineteenth Century in northern Ohio. I decided the challenges of this quilt would be – first – to make the quilt using fabric true to the time period. I had a time-appropriate quilt bought many years ago as a “cutter.” Most of the fabric for the small quilt came from this old quilt. I was also fortunate enough to have friends give me orphan blocks and bits of fabric from this time frame, plus I had a few of my own. I tried to stay true to her color choices.
Working with old fabric was a bigger challenge than I had anticipated. Some fabrics would simply turn to threads as I appliquéd, and other fabrics disintegrated as I’d brush against them while quilting. Repair work was necessary once I had finished! I also had to learn how to add stuffwork and cording to make this quilt. I did more quilting than Lucy did; however, Lucy made this challenging binding on the bias with one inch pieces of fabric. I did not have enough vintage fabric for that luxury.
This quilt took many long hours to complete. I can imagine the quilt was good therapy for Lucy during her evenings alone.