Save ’em, Wash ’em, Clean ’em, Squash ’em: The Mini Quilt

Ten years ago, I wrote my senior college thesis on a group of amazing women in Salt Lake City, Utah. During World War II, these women, known as the Salt Lake Minute Women, organized their neighborhoods and communities in preservation and conservation activities in support of the war effort.  One of their rallying cries was, “Save ’em, Wash ’em, Clean ’em, Squash ’em, referring to salvaging tin cans specifically. Did you know, for example, that women across the country salvaged waste paper, nylon and silk hosiery, scrap rubber, metal, and even kitchen fat to be transformed into needed commodities, at home and abroad?  They would hip today, as I found story after story of women repurposing garments and items during the war.  Somewhat related, I specifically remember women telling me they would draw lines on the back of their legs with eyeliner to mimic stockings when theirs ran out. Utah, incidentally, was the first state in the nation to completely organize its efforts–more than 13,000 women and children were officially registered in the effort. I was surprised to learn, among other things, that salvaged kitchen fat could be used in manufacturing nitroglycerine for anti-aircraft shells, alkyd resin paint for tanks, and dynamite.

I think about those women, every once in a while. I am always interested in women’s history–I was interested in quilts as material culture long before I actually started quilting.  While doing research, I  was thrilled to find that my own great grandmother was the Minute Women leader of her small Utah community. She was also a quilter.

Last December, my sister in law gave me her leftover reproduction fabric for a 30s quilt that is on the list, but not yet started. Inspired by this quilt, this week I pulled Sam’s scraps and different shades of white  from the bin, and this mini quilt was the result.  Many of the Salt Lake Minute Women were undoubtedly quilters, due to the prevalence of quilting in Utah during that time.  The dates are a little off, but I can imagine that not a few of them pulled out their scraps from the previous decade to make something useful, or lovely, during the war. I think I am going to hang this mini-quilt (about 18 inches square) above my sewing machine.

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  1. pinksuedeshoe
    Posted September 4, 2010 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    I loved that quilt over at FITF! Such a great reminder to have with you while you sew. Love it.

  2. Posted September 6, 2010 at 5:16 am | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing what you discovered about Utah history. WWII was definitely a community effort ( I wasn’t alive then, but I heard lots of stories from my grandmothers!)
    I like this quilt you made. Really, really special in its clean lines.

  3. Posted September 18, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    That is a brilliant post! I totally love quilts as a piece of history let alone culture!

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