Even though the meteorologists say we are on track for one of the three warmest Novembers in recorded history, we need to remember: this is November, after all. We know what’s coming. And what better preparation can there be than to get out the quilts? Quilts are warmth and love made manifest in brightly colored cloth, stuffed with batting for insulation, and stitched together to bring cozy cheer and memories into our homes in the cold months.
This all-cotton quilt was made by Mina Brinker Ristow, who lived at 513 Oak St., Onalaska. It was donated to the La Crosse County Historical Society in 1988 by her granddaughter, Eleanor Ristow Mack, who lived on Easton Farm in Mormon Coulee. We have no documentation to back this up, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that Mina probably made this as a gift to her daughter, Eleanor’s mother, who handed it down to her daughter. And a quilt done in a pattern with the romantic name of Double Wedding Ring may well have been a wedding gift.
Although we think of quilts as old-timey, and a product of the 19th century, this pattern is quintessential 1930s, a product of the Colonial Revival decorating movement.
Urbanization, immigration, and industrialization changed America drastically in the space of a generation, and many people began looking for a partial return to “simpler times,” and colonial America loomed large in their collective imaginings. Of course the images of early Americana were generally wishful fantasies, but women could hand quilt their modern designs, pieced in the most recent printed cottons and feel that they were sharing an experience with their foremothers in the colonies.
This is a classic 1930s Double Wedding Ring quilt. It has colorful printed patchwork on a white background. The scalloped border, following the design, is a typical 1930s technique, as are the colors and designs of these cheerful little prints. Sometimes these were from feed sacks made from printed fabrics for women to reuse.
Mina Ristow’s life may have been hard, but she must have gotten a lot of pleasure out of making this beautiful quilt for a beloved daughter. And we know the daughter treasured it, because it was saved and passed down to another generation after that.
This article was originally featured in the La Crosse Tribune.