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Stitches in time - Expert traces history of quilting

April 14, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - Fawn Valentine knows her quilts.

At a first glance, the West Virginia resident can pick out where the pattern originated, how far it dates back and whether it was put together with cheap or more expensive fabric.

Valentine shared some of her knowledge Saturday with about 30 quilt enthusiasts at the Mather Training Center at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

The American Quilt History presentation was sponsored by the Harpers Ferry Historical Association.

Valentine is the author of "West Virginia Quilts and Quiltmakers," and is a weaver and adjunct professor for Mountain State University. She was recently elected to the Board of Directors for the American Quilt Study Group.

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Showing a slide of a "crazy quilt," Valentine explained that such quilts were popular in the late 1800s. They got their name because they consisted of a mixture of colors, shapes and patterns.

The crazy quilt was known to be made with less expensive fabric, such as pieces of worn workshirts or other clothing, Valentine said.

The earliest quilts in the U.S. date back to about 1750. She said she didn't think there were more than 100 quilts from that time period that are still around.

Bill Judge, who attended the presentation with his wife, Margaret, described quiltmaking as an art that also served as a creative outlet for women who were housebound in earlier centuries.

"It was a way for women to express their creative nature before they had the opportunity to get into the world," Bill Judge said. "Women were homemakers."

His wife said she found Valentine's presentation interesting because of her vast knowledge of quilts.

"She can look at a quilt and know what dyes were used..." Margaret Judge said.

Margaret Judge said quilts remind her of her childhood and how she used to help her mother pick out different colors for the quilts.

"Quilts have an emotional draw," she said. "This is the reason I think that many of us are drawn to it."

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