Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kansas troubles

Around the middle of March I got ensnared in a completely asinine conversation with my mother-in-law, the gist of which was how she resented paying higher taxes for other people's kids to go to school & not learn anything because the schools are completely broken.  While I do have issues (many, many issues) with the state of public education, I had never entertained her solution-that the whole system should be privatized or pay-as-you go.  My only response (I was a bit unprepared- not that I couldn't anticipate her opinion but that her son would ditch me with her for so long) was that didn't she think it was good thing that the person who handed her her medication could read?  She countered that no, she did not think that was important because the doctor can read & the pharmacist can read & she can read & papa can read & they can all check that the medication is right.  OKay then.

What she mostly kept flapping on about was some internet e-mail thing-y of an exam students used to have to take to graduate high school.  I cannot link to the original for you to view because the document was formatted landscape but my in-laws printed it portrait, making the headers & footers & therefore the source unreadable to me.  As for what did print, they could only read that mostly because the type was waaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyy oversized (but they don't need glasses, no sir).  The whole thing boiled down to her assertion (& that of the chain letter, I gather) that no one could answer these exam questions today & therefore public education was completely decayed & should be trashed.

For future visits to my in-laws, I am thinking of carrying a copy of the equation sheet given to students taking today's FCAT so the two of them can use it while they answer those questions on-line (I am not printing the whole test & killing all those trees just to make a point that will not be taken), but on the day itself I was lucky enough to spot the one & only complete question (completely printed question, that is):  Discuss the origins of the State of Kansas.

It was a gift, I tell you.  I (& pretty much every other person who has ever had a glance at a quilt history guide of any kind) can do 15-45 minutes on Kansas...Kansas Troubles that is.  & it all began today in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase.

I will spare you the history highlights & get straight to my favorite part:  the quilt blocks.  That is except to say I think the intention of the original exam question was to probe the students' understanding of the ratification of an abolitionist state that could have gone either way (free or slavery I mean).  I can do neither the history nor the quilts justice, but you can see quite a bit more here if you are interested (& you should be, it is interesting).

Kansas (OKay, a few more highlights are necessary) went on to make itself miserable, while trying to achieve a higher moral standard through narrow definition of the idea "high moral standard", by maintaining prohibition way longer than any other USState.  Voters approved the state constitutional amendment 30+ years before the change was made to US constitution & kept it on the books until after WWII ended.  Much more restrictive laws than any other state were still enforced well into to 1980s.   It is just the shortest step from prohibition to Carrie Nation & her legendary hatchet.  I have the vaguest recollection that the Kansas Troubles block is intended to represent her (hatchet, specifically), but I promise my mother-in-law was not listening any longer anyhow & never did get the quilt block connection.  Also, I think I might be wrong & the hatchet of the block is actually...something else.  History by quilt block is not an exact science.

Anyhow, we now arrive at the Carrie Nation quilt block, which looks like a cross between Puss in the Corner & Jacob's ladder to me, but hey, why not?  There are all kinds of other temperance related quilt blocks including the Temperance T & Drunkard's Path.  You could spend quite a while on this branch, but let's get back to Kansas, shall we?

There are other lovely Kansas-specific quilt blocks; Kansas Star is one of my favorites (although I did not know it was called Kansas Star until I started writing this blog entry-kind of like a FBQBS member who works for The Hartford but did not know the block she had chosen was called Hope of Hartford, not that I think the quilt block is about the insurance company).

It is hard to know exactly why quilting & Kansas are so linked; I know the Kansas City Star was one of the primary sources for quilt patterns (newspapers with declining subscription rates today don't have to buy a clue-I give them this one for free).  It was probably one of those crucible things.  For whatever reason, the Kansas City Star pretty much set the high-high standard of quilt patterns for decades & not surprisingly named many of the blocks after, well, Kansas & things Kansasian...Kansasite?    If I really wanted to know (& I do, now, kinda) I could get the book by Barbara Brackman.

Finally, I decided I should make some Kansas blocks of my own so I went to Quilter's Cache & printed the directions for Kansas Trouble (sic) & the variation & made one of each.  They are constructed on the same 4-patch idea with the swinging hatchet look.  I (& again, most contemporary quilters) can see how the variation could become more popular with the tools & techniques currently in favor, but I think I prefer the look of the traditional block.  To make the original, make four of the block on the left, to make the variation, make four of the block on the right.

1 comment:

  1. So love the Kansas Trouble Block. I have a thing for all the old historical traditional blocks.

    Would be a great block swap.....