Freebies & Features

Pam Buda - Inspired by Life on the Prairie

MarcusFabrics welcomes Pam Buda to its family of designers, with the introduction of HEART OF THE PRAIRIE. The collection is inspired by her passion for prairie life, as she explains it:

"I love the Civil War era, and wanted to bring the Prairie life experience to light, through the club, because so much has already been covered about the CW era in New England. The folks that made the trek westward dealt with the war in different ways. They were also a very hearty bunch who left the only life they knew to settle our great nation. They made dozens of quilts before they left home in preparation for the harsh life that awaited them. While walking the plains and prairies, they had patchwork in their pockets. (Their patchwork pocket was not sewn into their dresses or skirts like we have now, bu    t was a separate item worn under their skirt. I'm fascinated with how they lived, how hard life was, how little they had, and they still made beautiful quilts.

To share her passion with other quilters, Pam developed a unique monthly club that she describes as "a journey back in time" where quilters gather together as the "Prairie Women" did, to hear anecdotal stories about their quilt making, and what daily life was like. The Prairie Women's Sewing Circle (PWSC) focuses on the time period of 1840 -- 1900, encompassing the beginning of the westward progression along the Oregon Trail, the Civil War, and the women's suffrage movement. Through hands-on projects, members learn how the quilting ancestors created quilts by "Making-Do" with what they had, an important concept of the club, which is available to quilters through participating quilt shops.

"They were very frugal -- nothing was wasted. Every scrap of fabric was used, often over and over again. Most of their quilts were very utilitarian, though beautiful. The prints were simple, just as they were. The women rarely spent money on yardage and 'fancy' floral prints except perhaps to make a special "Sunday" dress. They made-do with whatever they had, in all areas of their lives, and their quilts were no exception".

Think of "Little House on the Prairie" and Laura Ingalls Wilder, with rustic surroundings, Conestoga covered wagons, sod houses, treadle sewing machines, simple furniture, candles, treenware (buckets, plates, bowls, spoons and the like made from wood), coverlets, quilts, samplers, bonnets, aprons, sewing needfuls, spinning wheels, tintype photos, silhouettes pictures, handwritten letters, trunks, barrels, flour sacks, washtubs, scrub boards... life was rustic, plain, sometimes crude.

The women of this era (and before 1840) sewed everything for their home. Because of this, a huge part of their daily lives was spent sewing (by hand until the 1850's -- the treadle machine was invented in 1848). Every pillowcase, quilt, drapery, sheet, bloomers, pants, skirt, shirt, coat, dressing gown, night shirt, apron, grain sack, etc... everything was made by hand. In the prairie, due to lack of stores, money, and frugality, they had to spin their thread, dye it, and weave their fabric, too. All socks and other knits were made by hand as well.

They did without so much, even years after their homestead was settled. I immerse myself in their world, trying to imagine what their life was really like. How would I have handled such a difficult life? I am so touched by their rough hewn living, and how they still found away to make such beautiful quilts, embroider pillowcases, and aprons, stitch samplers, etc., to showcase their needlework abilities. Their creative spirit was alive and well within them and they found ways to express it.

That's why I love make-do quilts so much. Despite having little resources, they made-do with mismatched fabrics, stitching their patchwork together, trying to make something pretty.

About the HEART OF THE PRAIRIE Collection:

For HEART OF THE PRAIRIE, I chose two prints that would represent what a Prairie Woman might choose if she were splurging on fabric for a "Sunday Best" dress. These floral prints feature simple country flowers... sweet blooms that might grow on flowering prairie bushes, or a flower in her garden. I also chose a very simple shirting as one of the light prints, because they were so common then, and it's a print from one of my 19th century antique quilts. Also included is a mix of small prints, both in neutral and colors, which would have been common during this time period as well. These were the staple fabrics they used to make everything they needed in their lives.

I designed the line in very popular colors of the era, Indigo blues, double pinks, and sage greens. All blend nicely with each other as well as in pairs, i.e., blue/pink, pink/green, blue/green, which give a lot of creative combinations in quiltmaking. Lots of fun and different period neutrals add to the mix for even more possibilities.

What is "Prairie Dirty"??

Life on the prairie was always dirty. There was a layer of dirt that never really came out of their fabric, which gives it a kind of aged, vintage patina. All of the light prints in the collection are "Prairie Dirty", meaning they have been created to replicate this slightly dirty patina. True white will never be a part of my fabric collections. Instead, I describe all of the light prints as being "prairie dirty."

View the Collection