Sunday Stories: Grace Snyder's Quilts Part 3

Excerpted from the McPherson County: Facts, Families, Fiction; Established in 1890

Masters Award Sewed Up
North Platte Telegraph, November 30, 1980, by Mary Ann Koch

Nearly a hundred years ago a young Nebraska Sandhills girl dreamed she would “grow up to make the most beautiful quilts in the world.” That dream came true for Grace Snyder and now her handiwork hangs in the Quilter’s Hall of Fame in Arlington, Virginia. Only 11 people have been so honored, six last year and five this year (1980), including a woman from Yorkshire, England.

The presentation of Mrs. Snyder’s quilt was made by Ellen Swanson of Fairfax, Virginia, during the second Continental Quilter’s Congress in October. Mrs. Snyder was awarded a handcrafted pewter box with the Quilter’s logo embossed on top and her name engraved inside, and a book featuring a biographical sketch of each of this year’s master quilters. A slide presentation including all of those named to the Hall of Fame is also being compiled.

The Flower Basket pattern of Mrs. Snyder’s masterpiece is made up of 85,789 bits of calico.

A letter to Mrs. Snyder from Hazel Carter, president of the Continental Quilting Congress and coordinator for the Congress, states, “Quilters today have been so fortunate that you, with your daughter’s assistance, have shared your great needlework with us. Your Petit Point Flower Basket was displayed at our first convention and was truly a show stopper.” Mrs. Snyder’s daughter is North Platte author, Nellie Snyder Yost. Mrs. Yost’s third book, “No Time on my Hands” published in 1951, is about her mother.

The 1980 Quilter’s book praises Mrs. Snyder for creating some of the finest examples of folk art in the quilting medium and states “she has become a legend for her extraordinary accomplishments. Her quilts, which have been displayed throughout the United States and have won many ribbons, are amazing for the fineness of workmanship and intricacy of design and fabric use.

“One of her specialties is making patchwork from thousands of tiny pieces of material. The Flower Basket Petit Point quilt (1943, 91x93 inches) patterned after a design on a china plate, is perhaps her most famous. Made up of 85,789 squares and triangles, the quilt has pieces so small that eight of them sewed together make a block less than an inch square. The effect of the work, which took Mrs. Snyder only 16 months to make, is more like petit point embroidery than patchwork.”

Making quilts was a labor of love for Mrs. Snyder, who learned the craft in a soddy at her mother’s knee. Through the years, while performing the usual duties of a ranch wife including canning, gardening, sewing and raising a family, she made 24 large and intricate show quilts, plus many for everyday use in her home.

Asked how many quilts she had made, Mrs. Snyder replied, “I had such a great time making them, I didn’t think about keeping track of how many I made.”

Please read more about Grace Snyder's incredible life and her quilts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln International Quilt Study Center and Museum website. You can also see many of her quilts there.


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