Tumbling Blocks

January, 2021

Tumbling Blocks

Maker Unknown

Maker unknown
United States, 1890-1910
Cotton: hand pieced 
Hand quilted by Jim Kohler, Lincoln, Nebraska, 2018-2020
Gift of Susan Goss, IQM 2015.099.0001E

This quilt came to the museum’s collection as a top. With its collection of fabrics dating from the 1880s, the International Quilt Museum wanted to finish it for the Education Collection. Objects in the museum’s Education Collection often travel to venues around the world and do not require as strict of display standards as pieces in the Permanent Collection.

IQM volunteer Jim Kohler finished the unknown maker’s work by hand quilting it. Often setting up a wooden frame in the museum’s Mary Ghormley Reading Room, Kohler painstakingly made each stitch, often while talking about the project with museum visitors. 

“This is a special quilt,” Kohler said in a 2019 interview with PBS’s “Craft in America. “It’s not a collector’s quilt. There are stains that were on the shirts before the quilter cut them up and used them. And it is just basic shirting fabric. But to me, it’s an iconic quilt.”

While working on finishing the quilt through the years, Kohler often thought about the precision and care that the maker put into the quilt, including the careful placement of the blues and whites to create a visually dynamic piece. 

“When she sat down to make this, she couldn’t help herself,” he said. “She had that creativity and she poured it into this quilt.”

You can view more of his interview, and the full episode of “Craft in America: QUILTS” on YouTube.

Kohler will discuss this piece in greater detail during our Virtual First Friday on February 5, 2021 at 5:30 p.m. Central. A recording of the lecture will be available next week if you are unable to watch live.

The piece is also now showing in “Unbound by the Basics” through June 13 in the Beavers Terrace Gallery.