Ernest B. Haight: Sewing and Reaping

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“Ernest B. Haight made his first quilt in 1934 after having criticized the imprecise construction of one crafted by his wife’s grandmother. ‘In many of the blocks, the corners of the pieces didn’t fit too well,’ he recalled later. ‘I had to mention it, and my wife, Isabelle, came right back with, “Well, if you can do better, prove it!! If not, keep still.” So...what else could I do?’”—from Jonathan Gregory’s introduction

When not farming and raising his five children, this Nebraska engineer designed and fabricated more than 400 stunning quilts, a number of which are shown for the first time in this piece, introduced by Jonathan Gregory, Curator of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Ernest B. Haight (1899–1992) was born and raised in rural Butler County, Nebraska. Educated at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln as an agricultural engineer, Haight returned in 1924 to farm his parents’ land for the rest of his working life, and together with his wife, Isabelle, raised two daughters and three sons. Starting in the mid-1930s, Haight began quilt making in his spare time and over the course of his life crafted more than 400 quilts. Haight developed several time-saving innovations that he outlined in Practical Machine Quilting for the Homemaker, a booklet he self-published in 1974. He was inducted into the Nebraska Quilters Hall of Fame in 1986. 

Jonathan Gregory, who earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in textiles from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, leads development and production of exhibitions at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. He has curated the shows Covering the War: American Quilts in Times of Conflict and The Engineer Who Could: Ernest Haight’s Half Century of Quiltmaking, and he is a contributing author to various IQSCM publications, including American Quilts in the Industrial Age, 1790–1870 and American Quilts in the Modern Age, 1870–1940. Gregory is the coeditor of the IQSCM’s educational website, World Quilts (