Friday, December 19, 2014

How Quilts Are More Than Blankets: A Guest Post from Leah Zieber, Author of Libby Morgan: Reunion

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Publication Date: September 7, 2014
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 283
Series: American Heritage Quilt Series
Genre: YA/Historical Fiction

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03_Libby Morgan Reunion CoverComing from a long line of seamstresses, Libby has yet to sew anything more than the rudimentary button or hem, but on a visit to Connecticut she learns more than just how to sew patchwork. Set in 1855 New England and London, this tender story, Libby Morgan: Reunion, follows tenacious Elizabeth (Libby) Jane Morgan through her thirteenth summer of new adventures at home and abroad. She is given a birthday gift of sewing tools and fabric, as well as old family letters to use as templates for making her first quilt. Her decision to first read the letters results in questions that only her Grandmother Morgan’s stories can answer—stories of true love, horrible loss and family connections to London nobles. Her keen eye and inquisitive nature draws her family into a mysterious investigation that tests their faith, challenges their ability to forgive, and results in a resurrection and reunion of lost hearts.

*****Guest Post from Leah Zieber*****

Book Babe asked, "Did your own family history inspire this story or anything in it? If not, is there something in your family history that would be of interest to readers?"

Quilting is only one of the many forms of needlework that are longstanding, traditional pastimes in my family, pastimes that shaped my childhood and gave significance to my adult life. My writing draws from the many memories I have of my great Aunt Ruthie who was my pseudo grandmother growing up – my own grandmother being estranged from the family. I spent many summers with her, watching television while she sewed on the applique quilts she loved to make. I formed a close connection with Aunt Ruthie, as hers was the home I would seek refuge in during my own family’s struggles. Much of Mother Morgan’s character is based upon Aunt Ruthie and her sewing abilities.  She was an incredible seamstress, like her mother before her, and she was fascinating to watch; she sewed, crocheted, tatted and knitted tirelessly and seemingly without effort. She patiently taught me to embroider and crochet and she sparked in me an interest in quilting I did not foster until later in my adult life.
When I first began to make quilts, I always felt like there was part of the equation I did not posses and therefore felt my quilts lacked substance. I loved selecting fabric, cutting it to bits and putting it all back together in an esthetically pleasing pattern, but something told me there was more to making a quilt than what I knew. I struggled to figure out what was missing and it wasn’t until I joined a quilt history group that I found the element I lacked. In many of the antique and vintage quilts I examined, there was a story that equated to more than just random bits of cloth sewn together. The quilters of the past had worked meaning into their projects – meaning that could be found in their fabric choices as well as the images and the symbolism they sewed into their bedcoverings. Sometimes the meaning was political, sometimes religious, sometimes just for sentiment’s sake, but nearly always I found that the antique and vintage quilts portrayed something special for the maker or the receiver or both.
I wanted to know the history that was hidden in the quilts I studied – and not just the history of the people who made them, but the history of the fabrics, the threads, the battings and most importantly the reasons why the quilts were made. This search for understanding pushed me further into studying American quilt making and the history of textiles in America. And as I began to purchase antique quilts for my own collection, I earnestly sought to know my new possession’s provenance in hope of finding out what stories might be hidden in the folds of it’s past. This revelation - that a quilt has it’s own history – is what brought new depth to my quilt making and inspired me to write the story of Libby Morgan and her family.
Unlike some of the 19th century quilt stories available today, the quilt traditions talked about in Libby Morgan: Reunion are based upon provable, factual evidence. Significant research was done on the 19th century quilts and the other textile subjects in the story; for example, English paper piecing with letters, the bits of fabric in the ledgers at the Foundling Hospital in England, the Godey’s Lady’s Book references, and the tools used by the characters are all historically accurate. And though none of the early quilts referenced in this first book are from my family, as the series progresses, much will be drawn from the pieces of my collection that were made by my own ancestors.  
I want to share with young girls and women historically accurate stories of American quilting traditions and help them to understand that quilts can be more than just utilitarian blankets. I hope the reader will come to know that the stitches and fabric and time spent making a quilt is truly a gift to posterity that can one day be looked upon with meaningful understanding of the past. Through my stories I hope to give an accurate and factual glimpse at the history behind America’s love of quilt making and bring readers closer to an understanding of all that a quilt can and does represent.

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About the Author

02_Leah Zieber AuthorLeah A. Zieber is a quilt historian and quilt maker from Temecula, California, specializing in American quilt history and reproduction quilts from the nineteenth century. Her quilts have been exhibited across the country in quilt shows, museums and historical societies and were most recently published in Stars: A Study of 19th Century Star Quilts. Leah has worked closely with Southern California collectors, cataloging, managing, and independently researching their textile collections. Her own collection of antique quilts and related textile items spans one hundred and eighty five years, and she shares her knowledge of American quilt history using her collection in lectures and workshops. Libby Morgan: Reunion is her debut novel and the first in her American Heritage Quilt Series.

For more information please visit Leah Zieber's website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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