Thursday, July 30, 2020

Pieces From The Past - Russian Sunflower

Today's letter is from Alfred (last name unknown).

His handwriting is not of the best penmanship, and for that reason I have the transcribed the letter below.  Even though the writing on the envelope is much better... you'll notice that even the envelope makes the last name unreadable...

December 11, 1946

Dear Mr. Schleich,

I hope that you will remember of me because I left already the United States several months ago.  I am the former prisoner officer who has been working in your farm and at that time I gave you by leave the picture of the sunflower. 

Today I want to keep my promise to write to you as soon as I came home.  I have been discharged on the 20th of June, 1946 of the American captivity and since this time I am “a free citizen”.  As I am not able to return at present in my own country called Czechoslovakia thus I have taken a job in Munich and I found very soon a post in the Munich Military Community.  I am feeling quite well but I am often thinking of the United States of America.  It will always be a very nice memory of you, dear Mr. Schleich, your charming wife, your sons and Mr. Eckert.  

How many favors has your dear wife done for us when I am thinking about the good food and the very nice time by your family.  Then I feel pity that I had to leave all that and to live with our small ration.

From the other comrades who have been working with me I never heard anything.  Maybe that one or another has been writing to you.

I wish you and your nice family good luck.  When you should have time once I would be very glad to hear from you.  Many regards to you, your dear wife and your sons.  Just so to Mr. and Mrs. Eckert.

Sincerely yours,

Alfred ??chala

So, there was another artist in the group... actually, according to the book written by Kurt Landsberger - Prisoners of War at Camp Trinidad, Colorado - which includes personal diary entries and excepts of stories written by several of the prisoners, there were a fair number of them.

From the diary of Karlhorst Heil there was mention of the beauty of the landscape in and surrounding the area of Camp Trinidad...

"Undated:  When we wake up in the morning and go for breakfast there is an indescribable sunrise; many stop for a moment and some of the artists return quickly to the barracks in a hopeless attempt to quickly paint and catch the variety of colors."

"We saw the snow covered peaks of the mountain chain, around 4000 meters high (13,100 feet), with Fisher's Peak, Spanish Peeks or "Breasts of the Earth" as the Indians called the two latter mountains."

On June 11, 1944, the Kansas City Star headlined a feature story "Nazi Officers Keep Busy in Colorado Prison Camp."  Reporter Ted M. Metzger, wrote "Scientists, Teachers, Industrial Leaders, Doctors and Lawyers Paint Pictures, Give Concerts, Build Theatre and Stage Plays in Barracks Buildings."

Landsberger continued stating that The reporter was invited to an art exhibit where various portraits and scenic paintings were on display.

I wonder... How many of the paintings that had been created in the time of Camp Trinidad made their way to other local farmers?  How many of the paintings found their way back to Germany?  How many family members heard the stories of their time as POWs?  I suppose there is really no way to know... there were as many as 4,000 German soldiers held at the Camp -

That number is difficult for me to imagine, given the current population (2018 is as current as I can find) of Trinidad, CO is 8,211.  The population, according to the 1940 census, was 13,200+.  

So even if the art exhibit was for just one compound (the camp was designed with four compounds, each having their own mess hall) that housed 1,000 men.

Ok, so there was another artist in the group of men that worked at Phillip and Katie Schleich's farm... Alfred offered a picture of a sunflower.  When I asked Mom about this piece of art, she was unaware of it.  Perhaps it was a separate piece, perhaps it was a collaborative piece with Helmut Müller.

Alfred's letter contained no requests for help... yet you can sense the feeling of sentiment and appreciation for his time working at the Schleich farm... and remembering the art he gave to them.  

Is the reason for choosing the Russian Sunflower...

I compiled some tips and tricks in a document that you can download - 

Just a quick tip, when cutting out the flower petal templates, (I cut my pieces leaving the line on them and the circle of petals, when assembled was too large. Shown here in this picture…) 
You will want to cut the center circle leaving the line. 

Here is a look from the back after removing the center templates…  it looks to be a hot mess!  But, be patient.  DO NOT TOSS THE BLOCK ASIDE!  In the end, you will NOT be disappointed.
 This is the same block that was such a mess with all of the slight gathering, a little finessing and a bit of starch and ironing, know one would ever know!

Here is a second block that I did, trimming the templates for the petals just inside the lines... you can see that the flower lays flat.  It was at that time that I determined the size that the center needed to be.

One of my testers, Stacey, a beginning English Paper Piecer, shared with me pictures of her progress.  She did not follow the assembly instructions completely...   BUT she stuck with it and things improved...
Not an EPP fan?  No worries... I've got you covered. 😊  You can opt for a beginner friendly block.  I don't actually know the "Kansas City Star Journal" name of this block because the templates were cut out and the only word on the pattern is "often".  This pattern is also over on payhip...
As an extra incentive, for those that accept the challenge of the EPP pattern and link up, you will earn an extra entry into the drawing for the free fat quarter.  Be sure to tag me on instagram and use #piecesfromthepastsewalong or share on my fb page - Melva Loves Scraps.  Show us all your sunflowers!

This year, 2020, has been a challenging year... we need to take a lesson from the sunflowers and share positive energy with each other.

Where do you turn to when you need a little support, help or energy?

Some may turn to an activity such as quilting, knitting or crocheting.  Others may turn to a more physical activity such as gardening, hiking or running.  And others still, like Alfred did, recall pleasant times and happy memories. 

I have a variety of areas and friends that I get support and help and draw energy...  camping is one of them.  It has been weeks since we last got away... and I am longing to get away to recharge my batteries.  How about you?  How do you re-charge?  Leave a comment... I love to hear from all of you.

Quilt Happy!


Interested in the other patterns from this sew along?  You will find links for all of them over on the Sew Along Announcement.

Linking with:

Needle & Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation
Creative Compulsions at Bijou Bead Boutique
Can I Get A Whoop Whoop at Confessions of a Fabric Addict
Off The Wall Friday with Nina Marie
Brag About Your Beauties at From Bolt to Beauty
Peacock Party at Wendy’s Quilts and More
Friday Foto Fun at Powered by Quilting
Finished or Not Friday at Alycia Quilts
BOMs Away at What A Hoot Quilts
Oh Scrap! at Quilting is More Fun Than Housework
Sunday Stash at QuiltPaintCreate
Patchwork & Quilts at The Quilting Patch
Scrap Happy Saturday at Super Scrappy
UFO Busting at Tish’s Wonderland
What I Made Monday at Pretty Piney
Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt

Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts


  1. Beautiful, but I have never paper pieced! I'll have to try the pieced block! Thanks for sharing another beautiful letter.

  2. Your Sunflower blocks turned out quite nice. It is a design that I like to use every now and then. I made mine using the "striplate" piecing method by Deb Wagner.

  3. This was such a sweet letter. I enjoyed reading it.
    The EPP block actually looks like a block that was around several years ago. It was a Dresden Plate block and had the insert in it like that one that makes it look like the sun's rays. It was very pretty and since I have that pattern, I think I will use it instead. I know how to piece that one. lol
    As for me. I recharge by going in my sewing room or going outside and working in my flower garden. Either one brings a sense of peace to my soul. Thanks again for a beautiful pattern.

  4. Melva, you gave us a real challenge this time. Not complaining though. I love challenges. I was hoping you would be able to find the original sunflower gift. I was just thinking as I was reading the letter, wouldn't it be cool to trace the people or the descendants of the prisoners who sent the letters? I know it would probably be a nearly impossible task though.

  5. I really enjoy each of your postings about your grandparent's experiences with the POWs and their letters. The block you've chosen to go with this letter is amazing. I'm not sure I'll be able to master it, but it certainly looks worth trying.
    We are spending the summer and perhaps beyond at our little summer home. We have a lovely garden here that keeps us busy and we are close to the bay and the ocean beaches which gives us an opportunity to get out and walk. I find being able to be out in nature reduces my stress level.

  6. Hi Melva! Thanks again for sharing the letter. I sure do look forward to these every few weeks. I'm going to take the easy way out and skip the EPP version. I appreciate that you have the easier version available for those of us who are EPP scared. Happy Friday! ~smile~ Roseanne

  7. I love sunflowers so I find these really pretty! That letter is such a great piece of history.

  8. Wow!! What a cool story behind this block!! Too funny - I thought his penmanship was very readable - which means... you may never want to see my handwriting - hahaha!

  9. Such an appropriate choice of block for this post! The pattern looks challenging, but so worth the final product! Thank you for sharing!

  10. Lovely block, I love sunflowers 👍
    Thank you for sharing