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Hanna Balster was born in Germany. She came to America on a boat with her family when she was 16. At 19 she married another German immigrant, a carpenter who built furniture and coffins. Hanna and her husband lived all their adult lives in Lost Nation, Iowa.

She had 5 children, 4 boys and one daughter, my motherís mother. Sadly one son passed away when he was quite young from pneumonia.

Hanna loved to play the card games 500 and Bunco with her friends. Wednesday evenings were spent listening to her husband play in a German band.

Once the telephone was available she was often found on a bench on the landing between the upstairs and down chatting with friends.

During all this time she made numerous quilts, all hand pieced and quilted. She had a big quilt frame in her home where the women gathered regularly to quilt together.

Hanna made a quilt for each of her great grandchildren and below are mine (top), and my sisters Jean's (middle) and Carol's (bottom).

Judy Anne Johnson Breneman

A Gift of Tradition
for my great grandmother Hanna

Months passed, carefully hand stitching,
convex to concave, each fine seam.
This German woman prided in her work.

Searching though scraps saved from years
of sewing for children, grandchildren;
she cut the shapes needed for each block.

Mother gently touches the fabric from
dresses she wore as a child. We wonder why
this was used twice, others just once.

A sociable woman, how Hanna loved
chatting on that candlestick telephone.
Hands always sewing; time never wasted.

There was not enough green for the gently curved
pieces that pulled together the beauty of the whole.
It was difficult finding more in that small 1920s town.

The quilt appraiser notes the substitution,
perhaps a later dye lot. A valuable quilt,
I'm told. Completely hand made.

Top finished at last, women gathered around the
frame that great grandfather built. Conversation
lively as fingers flew. The quilting soon done.

Her friends admired the unusual design. Four muslin
patches alternating with five calico. Each surrounded
by a ring, the border a series of crescents.

Great Grandmother's gift hanging on my wall.
My sewing machine whirs, stitching fabric
bought, not saved. Quilting a new tradition.

© 1998 Judy Anne Johnson Breneman

full view
Wedding Ring Nine Patch
also known as
Glorified Nine Patch

large view
Double Nine Patch

large view
Nine Patch Variation

Recommended Website: Hand Quilting History: Gathering Around the Frame

Heritage Quilts

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Womenfolk - The Quilting Arts
including the History of Quilts plus
Quilt Patterns and Their History