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Column #78

Ollie Steele Burden’s Quilt Blocks

Renee Hoeprich (l) and Monique  Metrailer (r) examine one of the quilt tops believed to have been made by Ollie Steele Burden that was donated to the LSU Rural Life Museum. Photo by Alex Labry
Renee Hoeprich (l) and Monique Metrailer (r) examine one of the quilt tops believed to have been made by Ollie Steele Burden that was donated to the LSU Rural Life Museum. Photo by Alex Labry

Renee Hoeprich (l) and Monique  Metrailer (r) quilt on one of the quilt tops they've pieced together from "orphan blocks" donated to the LSU Rural Life Museum. The blocks are believed to have been made by Ollie Steele Burden. Photo by Alex Labry
Renee Hoeprich (l) and Monique Metrailer (r) quilt on one of the quilt tops they've pieced together from "orphan blocks" donated to the LSU Rural Life Museum. The blocks are believed to have been made by Ollie Steele Burden. Photo by Alex Labry

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the name of Burden is closely associated with the city’s rich history. Over 150 years ago, the Burdens settled on 600 acres they called Windrush Plantation, so named for a river in England near where the patriarch of the family was raised. Then located outside of the city, the plantation is now considered to be in the central part of Baton Rouge.

Through the years, a variety of influential Burdens left their mark on the property, developing it into a beautifully tranquil, park-like setting. The family eventually donated 400 acres to Louisiana State University (LSU), and it is now the site of the LSU Rural Life Museum and Windrush Gardens.

Part of the acreage is set aside for agricultural research (including plant pathology, horticulture, agronomy, engineering, and forestry); part remains as a natural wilderness area; and part is taken up by the Rural Life Museum complex, which features restored antique buildings typical of early settlement in the area, along with an interpretive center that houses an impressive collection of artifacts.

Monique Metrailer, who works as a docent at the Rural Life Museum interpretive center, had the idea of starting a quilting bee at the Museum as a way of demonstrating everyday life in rural Louisiana to visitors.

The Museum had several quilt frames in its collection and Metrailer approached the Museum Director, David Floyd, with the idea of using them for the quilting bee. Not only did he approve, but Floyd also surprised Metrailer by providing her with a stack of hand-pieced quilt tops and quilt blocks (having fabrics dating from the 1920s to the 1940s) that had recently been donated to the Museum.

The tops and blocks, along with a stash of fabrics, had been given to the museum by a gentleman who stated that they had been purchased years ago by his mother from museum founder Steele Burden at a “clean out sale.”

The gentleman stated that his mother had always said that she would never sell the items and made her son promise that he would give them back to the Museum when she died. The assumption was made that the tops and blocks belonged to Ollie Steele Burden (Steele’s mother), due to their dates and the fact that she was known to have sewn.

“In addition to the finished tops, there are enough blocks for at least eight quilts,” Metrailer says. A skilled needlewoman but new to quilting, Metrailer enlisted help from Baton Rouge’s River City Quilt Guild. Among those who agreed to assist in the project was Renee Hoeprich, an experienced quilter who had recently moved to Baton Rouge from San Diego.

The women used books, mainly Sensational Settings, by Joan Hanson and Setting Solutions by Sharon Craig, to combine the “orphan blocks” into tops for quilting. Hoeprich provided fabrics from her own collection to sash the blocks.

It has not yet been decided what will become of the quilts when they’re all finished, but one thing is certain: The quilting bee has been a great success, with quilters of all skill levels, from beginners to masters, happily taking part. The fact that the quilts being created are fashioned from finished tops and freshly-set blocks, likely made by Ollie Steele Burden herself, adds a special touch to the project. They have, essentially, come home.

“I think she would have liked the fact that we are taking the hand-pieced blocks and salvaging them,” Metrailer sums up. “I hope so, anyway!”

The LSU Rural Life Museum is located at the intersection of Essen Lane and Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge. It is open from 8:30 to 5:00 daily. The quilting bee takes place on Mondays and Tuesdays, and everyone is invited to sit down and quilt a spell.


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Archived blogs:

Column 139: Passage Quilts
Column 138: Home of the Brave Quilts
Column 137: The Story of Fabric Yo-Yos
Column 136: Christmas in July
Column 135: Trifles
Column 134: Deaf Initiatives—Communicating Through Quilts
Column 133: My Betty Boop Quilt
Column 132: Maura Grace Ambrose
Column 131: All You Need Is Love
Column 130: Chicken Linens
Column 129: The Quilted Chuppah
Column 128: Patchwork Around the World: Yoruba Dance Costumes
Column 127: The Bowers Co-Op Quilts
Column 126: Fon Appliqué and Haitian Voodoo Flags
Column 125: The Quilt Garden at The North Carolina Arboretum
Column 124: Harriet Powers and Handful’s Mauma
Column 123: Quilters de Mexico
Column 122: An Appliquéd Surprise
Column 121: Matisse’s Fabric Stash
Column 120: Soogan—The Cowboy’s Quilt
Column 119: The Ron Swanson Quilt
Column 118: HClarkdale, Georgia—A Thread of History
Column 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
Column 115: All in the Family
Column 114: The Alabama State Quilt
Column 113: Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque
Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery
Column 92: The Ballerina Quilter
Column 91: Grandmother's Flower Garden Comes Alive at Texas Quilt Museum
Column 90: Leitmotif for a Lifelong Love Affair
Column 89: Quilting in The Bahamas
Column 88: Joan of Arc: A Quilter's Inspiration
Column 87: Home Demonstration Clubs and Quilting
Column 86: Linzi Upton and the Quilted Yurt
Column 85: A Bounty of Quilts
Column 84: Desert Trader
Column 83: Quilts and the Women’s Liberation Movement
Column 82: Replicating the Past: Reproduction Fabrics for Today’s Quilts
Column 81: Why So Many Quilt Shops in Bozeman, Montana?
Column 80: Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum
Column 79: 54 Tons of Quilt
Column 78: Ollie Steele Burden’s Quilt Blocks
Column 77: Quilting with AMD
Column 76: Maverick Quilts and Cowgirls
Column 75: The Modern Quilt Guild—Cyberculture Quilting Ramps Up
Column 74: The Membership Quilt—Czech Quilting in Texas
Column 73: Maximum Security Quilts
Column 72: Author: Terri Thayer
Column 71: The Christmas Quilt
Column 70: New Mexico Centennial Quilt
Column 69: Scrub Quilts
Column 68: “Think Pink” Quilt Raises Funds for Rare Cancer Research
Column 67: Righting Old Wrongs.
Column 66: 100 Years, 100 Quilts - More on the Arizona Centennial.
Column 65: Arizona Centennial Quilt Project
Column 64: Capt. John Files Tom’s Family Tree
Column 63: The Fat Quarters
Column 62: Quilt Fiction Author: Clare O’Donohue
Column 61: Louisiana Bicentennial Quilt
Column 60: The Camo Quilt Project.
Column 59: Thread Wit
Column 58: Ralli Quilts
Column 57: Preschool Quilters
Column 56: The Story Quilt
Column 55: Red and Green Quilts
Column 54: On the Trail
Column 53: Quilt Trail Gathering
Column 52: True Confessions: First Quilt
Column 51: Quilted Pages
Column 50: Doll Quilts
Column 49: More Than a Quilt Shop
Column 48: Las Colchas of the Texas-Mexico Border
Column 47: Literary Gifts
Column 46: A Different Way of Seeing
Column 45: Sampling
Column 44: Hen and Chicks
Column 43: A Star Studied Event
Column 42: Shoo Fly Pattern
Column 41: Awareness Quilts
Column 40: Tivaevae
Column 39: UnOILed UnspOILed Coast Quilt Project
Column 38: Katrina Recovery Quilts
Column 37: Quilted Vermont
Column 36: The Labyrinth Quilt—A Meditative Endeavor

See other archived columns here

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