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  • Writer's pictureTerri Tomoff

Polly Mello Delivers the Creepy - In Quilts!

At last night's in-person SoCo quilt guild meeting, our speaker, Polly Mello, funny as all get out, delivered her creepy quilts in spades! All the meanings of the quilts were dark, like death or an ace of spades- including several creepy kids' quilts.

Did you know lots of kids' rhymes at the turn of the last century and in previous centuries were shrouded in the subject of death and dying? In more repressed times, people were not always allowed to express themselves freely for fear of persecution. Gossip, criticizing the government, or even discussing current events were often punishable by death.

In order to communicate "at will," sewists and quilters were geniuses in their work - clever rhymes were intricately woven into the patterns and quilting to parody public figures and events.

Not only is Polly an award-winning quilter, past president of the Baltimore Applique Society, historian, and lecturer, but she is also an ardent collector of many creepy quilts that catapulted her to one of her most fun trunk shows, Quilts That Go Bump in the Night.

Here is an example of a children's verse that we all know and probably said many times:

Ring around the rosy A pocketful of posies "Ashes, Ashes" We all fall down!

This rhyme dates back to the Great Plague of London in 1665. The symptoms of bubonic plague included a rosy red ring-shaped rash, which inspired the first line. Bad smells were believed to carry the disease, so people frequently carried pockets full of fresh herbs, or "posies." The "ashes, ashes" line is believed to refer to the cremation of the bodies of those who died from the plague.

Wow! Learning something new every day (or remembering the stuff we learned long ago and forgot).




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