Column #74

The Membership Quilt—Czech Quilting in Texas

The Membership Quilt—Czech Quilting in Texas
A detail of The Membership Quilt..

Czech immigrants began coming to Texas in the mid-1800s, arriving by boat to the Texas coast and then dispersing inland from there. They were leaving overcrowded farmland and social uprisings in Central Europe and they were hoping for a fresh start in a new land.

Texas gave them that start, and Czech communities began establishing in many parts of the state, with the main concentration being in the eastern central counties. Following the Civil War, a second wave of Czech immigration occurred, and today there are close to one million Texans who claim Czech ancestry.

Czech women were renowned for their prowess with a needle, although quilting was not among their traditional arts. Patchwork was new to many of the European women who came to Texas, but they quickly learned from their new neighbors and incorporated quilts into their daily existence.

As was the case with women of all backgrounds living in rural areas of Texas from the mid-19th century even up until World War II, quilting together as a group provided a welcome social outlet for the Czech women. Although quilts created during that time period were most commonly made for utilitarian purposes, occasionally the quilters would make a special quilt that was not necessarily intended for everyday use. 

Such was the case with a quilt known simply as the Membership Quilt that is now in the collection of the Czech Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas.

The Czech settlements were close-knit and most were centered on their churches, which were either Catholic or a Protestant group known as Brethren. Whether Catholic or Protestant, both types of churches served as a focal point and gathering place for the primarily rural worshipers.

Philosophical divisions between Czech Catholics and Czech Protestants began long before they immigrated to Texas; however, the Membership Quilt crossed religious boundaries and brought together women of both faiths.

Completed in 1927, the quilt was made by the Christian Sisters of the Ocker Brethern Church in Zabcikville and the Seaton Brethren Church in Seaton, along with women from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Cyclone. All three of these small communities are located just a few miles from one another in Bell County in Central Texas.

The quilt is made up of blocks containing the names of 528 members of those churches. Each block has a red flower on a green stem appliquéd in the center surrounded by names embroidered in black floss against a white ground. Narrow green sashing the same color and width as the flower stems separates the blocks.

Frank Klinkovsky was just one year old when the Membership Quilt was made, but his name is on it, as are the names of all the members of his family, since his mother contributed a block for the quilt. Now 86, Frank still attends the Seaton Brethren Church, and even though he was too young to remember the making of the Membership Quilt, he fondly recalls the “quilting parties” that were held in his family’s home during which ladies in the community would come to help quilt around a frame suspended from the ceiling.

When asked about the joining of the two religious groups as “members” on a single quilt, Frank responds, “I’ve wondered about that myself. But we were all neighbors living close together and most of us were sharecroppers, doing the same things. We were all mixed in and maybe it just didn’t matter.”

He’s probably right about that. After all, quilts have always had a way of bringing people together—across countries, across nationalities, across time, and, in the case of the Membership Quilt, even across religions.

 

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Archived blogs:

Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery
Column 92: The Ballerina Quilter
Column 91: Grandmother's Flower Garden Comes Alive at Texas Quilt Museum
Column 90: Leitmotif for a Lifelong Love Affair
Column 89: Quilting in The Bahamas
Column 88: Joan of Arc: A Quilter's Inspiration
Column 87: Home Demonstration Clubs and Quilting
Column 86: Linzi Upton and the Quilted Yurt
Column 85: A Bounty of Quilts
Column 84: Desert Trader
Column 83: Quilts and the Women’s Liberation Movement
Column 82: Replicating the Past: Reproduction Fabrics for Today’s Quilts
Column 81: Why So Many Quilt Shops in Bozeman, Montana?
Column 80: Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum
Column 79: 54 Tons of Quilt
Column 78: Ollie Steele Burden’s Quilt Blocks
Column 77: Quilting with AMD
Column 76: Maverick Quilts and Cowgirls
Column 75: The Modern Quilt Guild—Cyberculture Quilting Ramps Up
Column 74: The Membership Quilt—Czech Quilting in Texas
Column 73: Maximum Security Quilts
Column 72: Author: Terri Thayer
Column 71: The Christmas Quilt
Column 70: New Mexico Centennial Quilt
Column 69: Scrub Quilts
Column 68: “Think Pink” Quilt Raises Funds for Rare Cancer Research
Column 67: Righting Old Wrongs.
Column 66: 100 Years, 100 Quilts - More on the Arizona Centennial.
Column 65: Arizona Centennial Quilt Project
Column 64: Capt. John Files Tom’s Family Tree
Column 63: The Fat Quarters
Column 62: Quilt Fiction Author: Clare O’Donohue
Column 61: Louisiana Bicentennial Quilt
Column 60: The Camo Quilt Project.
Column 59: Thread Wit
Column 58: Ralli Quilts
Column 57: Preschool Quilters
Column 56: The Story Quilt
Column 55: Red and Green Quilts
Column 54: On the Trail
Column 53: Quilt Trail Gathering
Column 52: True Confessions: First Quilt
Column 51: Quilted Pages
Column 50: Doll Quilts
Column 49: More Than a Quilt Shop
Column 48: Las Colchas of the Texas-Mexico Border
Column 47: Literary Gifts
Column 46: A Different Way of Seeing
Column 45: Sampling
Column 44: Hen and Chicks
Column 43: A Star Studied Event
Column 42: Shoo Fly Pattern
Column 41: Awareness Quilts
Column 40: Tivaevae
Column 39: UnOILed UnspOILed Coast Quilt Project
Column 38: Katrina Recovery Quilts
Column 37: Quilted Vermont
Column 36: The Labyrinth Quilt—A Meditative Endeavor

See other archived columns here

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