July 22, 2019|
The Bassett Historical Center has written articles featuring quilts several times over the years. Here is an additional quilt story that we hope that you enjoy. Six years ago (2013) quilt expert and curator, Mrs. Neva hart, came to Bassett Historical Center to identify patterns of quilts, to photograph and catalog them. Anyone who had old quilts was invited to bring not more than two quilts for this survey.
Mr. Hart, associated with the Virginia Quilt Museum, located in Harrisonburg, Virginia was planning an exhibit of quilts for an exhibit for the fall of 2018 September 15 through December 15. Mrs. Hart reviewed her collection of photos of the quilts she had cataloged to select outstanding quilts for this show. She planned this quilt display to include quilts made from the “Mountain Mist Series”. These patterns were introduced and included on the wrapper of Mountain Mist quilt batting made by Stearns & Foster Co. in Cincinnati, Ohio. This practice began in 1929. The patterns included simple templates and complete instructions for making one of the numbered patterns, as well as quilting design suggestions. Patterns could also be ordered separately by mail. The company introduced new patterns approximately every month. Stearns and Foster records indicate they produced a total of 133 patterns, a few were added as recently as 1960, 1989 and 1990. The last patterns, “Pieced Poinsettia” #132 and “Love Apple” #33 were added in 1996 in celebration of their 150th anniversary. The company had a collection of sample quilts that were exhibited at fairs, fashion shows, and quilt events. At its peak, Stearns was the largest cotton consumer in the U.S. In 2012, the Mountain Mist collection of model quilts and ephemera were acquired by the International Quilt Study at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
One of the quilts cataloged here at the Bassett Historical Center was selected by Mrs. Hart to be placed in this exhibit. It was quilted in 1984 by Mrs. Livie Davis (1914-2012) in Bassett, Virginia. The quilt was made of cotton, the work was hand appliqué, stuffed, and hand quilted with white muslin backing. This quilt won First Place in Applique in 1984 which was the last local quilt contest Livie entered. The quilt was loaned by a daughter Mrs. Shirley Farmer of Rocky Mount, Virginia. This quilt has alson been passed on to her granddaughter Terry Farmer Fralin of Franklin County, Virginia. The exhibit opening was September 15 and both Shirley and her sister Betty Scott, along with a cousin, attended the opening. Mrs. Davis’ quilt was one of three in this exhibit in which the quilt maker could be identified. There were many beautiful quilts exhibited that had passed from the hands of the family of the makers. All the work was lovely and very much appreciated by their lucky owners. Mrs. Davis’ pattern for this particular quilt was Martha’s Vineyard #2B (1931). A special touch added by the maker was the embroidered notation that JFK, Jr’s plane went down July 16, 1984 at Martha’s Vineyard.
Mrs. Davis kept records of the number of quilts she finished along with the date. During the years between 1974 and 1984, her records show that she made 90 quilts. These were for her family, for orders from Ferrum Crafts in Ferrum, Virginia, or to sell to a few friends. Mrs. Davis began quilting as a very young person with her mother, aunts, and sisters. Livie followed the same quilting procedure as her mother used. The frames were 1 x 2 inch boards with holes drilled every 1 inch. Her quilting room was in the basement, actually the furnace room. Her frames were hung from the ceiling which in the old days allowed a quilt to be “put in” and worked on usually in the evening after chores were done and dinner eaten. During the day time, the frames were raised to the ceiling of the room and were out of the way. Livie’s son-in-law gave her an old office chair so she could roll into place to begin quilting and to be able to move around the frame completely until the frames needed to be rolled over to continue the quilting pattern.
Quilting took a backseat during the years of raising daughters. When her daughters no longer lived at home, she began to devote more time to quilting than to ordinary sewing. This was in addition to a fulltime job and still doing a lot of gardening and preserving. Mrs. Davis quilted almost every day when she could. Her husband had suffered a mild stroke, but quilting gave her time and space to have a break from the constant responsibilities of caring fulltime for a family member. She began quilting with a passion at age 60 and eased off at age 70. Her husband died in 1994, so those next years meant added responsibility with total upkeep with a home and everything else. She had written a note in the special box she kept her ribbons in for being a winner in the local contests held for several years by Leggetts Department Store. The note expressed her feeling of accomplishment by having won several first and second place awards, but more important, she had realized that time passing had taken toll on eyesight, dexterity, and patience. She expressed the hope that others would see her quilts with an approving eye. I appreciate her gift to me and my family of that note. I am so proud of her! She was a gifted and talented lady!
Betty Scott, Bassett Historical Center