Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Art of Quilting

This October 20th, at 7 pm, the Massanutten Regional Library’s Deyerle series offers its third program. Judith Shuey, the Director of the Virginia Quilt Museum (VQM), will discuss Depression Era Quilting.

The VQM is a wonderful resource for those interested in quilt making and the history of quilts. For the curious visitor, the dazzling display of quilted colors and the showcase for the women who made them provide a satisfying experience. In keeping with the 150th Civil War anniversary observances, and as an alternative to a battlefield tour, the museum has a permanent exhibit dedicated to quilt making in the Civil War era.

In both the North and the South, quilts were sewn to raise money for the cause. Northern women had a history of making quilts for a cause and their early Civil War efforts provided quilts for the “Sanitary Fairs” to raise money for medical and other supplies. Quilt patterns on these covers were often patriotic-themed or red, white, and blue colors.

At the beginning of the War, many Southern women learned quilting. Previously practical needlework had been performed by their slaves. Southern women made “gun boat” quilts to raise money to buy boats for the Confederate Navy: the quilts sold at Gun Boat Fairs. Money raised through 1862 bought three gunboats. Many of the quilts had medallion style flower arrangements, known as broderie perse.

As a practical necessity, women on both sides of the War made quilts for their soldiers. Union soldiers received an estimated 250,000 quilts. The number of Southern-made quilts is not known, but quilt-making for Southern soldiers became increasingly difficult as fabric became scarce after the blockade of the ports. Very few of the quilts for soldiers survived the hard use in the field or their final use as a burial shroud.

Quilting provided women a way to participate in the war. Also, needlework kept many women’s hands occupied while their mind worried about family members on the battlefield and about the home or farm they were maintaining and the children they were raising. One of the Civil War exhibits at the VQM features three New Market quilters – Molly Zerkel, Eliza Crim, and Lucinda Rice - and illustrates the women’s contributions in the Battle of New Market.

Around the Museum are several quilts connected by pattern and/or by handiwork to the Civil War era. In your walk around the Museum look for the following:

Shenandoah Valley Botanical Album Quilt (1858) - shows flowers grown in Rockingham County and is a rare example of mid-19th century regional folk art and features.

Log Cabin pattern The Log Cabin-patterned quilts became popular to honor President Lincoln’s humble beginning.

Hexagon Mosaic Quilt worked on from 1830-1860;

The Texas Star quilt (1860) a common pattern of the period;

New York Beauty quilt (1865) made in Highland County; and

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star quilt (2011) showcases Civil War era reproduction fabrics and is a reminder that quilts are also a historical record of popular fabrics of the time.

Enjoy your visit.

Tour of the VQM with Judith Shuey, Director.  October 6, 2011.
Virginia Quilt Museum. Howell Press. Charlottesville, Va. 2002
Barbara Brackman.  Quilts from the Civil War. V & T Publishing, Lafayette, CA. 1997.

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