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Guild documents local antique quilts

April 02, 2006|By BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

GREENCASTLE, Pa.

Walking into the Church of the Brethren in Greencastle Saturday was like visiting Grandma's attic. Antique quilts abounded, accompanied by that wonderful, homey smell of cedar chests and old fabric.

Local residents brought their antique quilts to Quilt Documentation day, sponsored by the Chambersburg (Pa.) Quilt Guild.

Guild members photograph and collect information about quilts made prior to 1950 in Franklin County or owned by a county resident. Experienced quilt documenters estimate the age of the quilts based on fabric, pattern, style and techniques. They do not give appraisals.

The husband-and-wife team of Donna and Brian Ruppert of Frederick County, Md., were among the six documeters brought in for the public event, one of six the guild has held around Franklin County since September.

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Learning to determine the age of an antique quilt involves "looking at as many quilts as you can," Donna Ruppert said. The couple has a large collection of Maryland quilts, and visit museums often to look at old quilts.

"It's a gathering of clues," she added. "You look at the fabric, the style, the pattern. They all give a clue to the age of the quilt."

She closely examined a vibrant pink, green and yellow Carpenter's Star quilt owned by June Niswander of Coseytown, Pa.

"This is one step above the ordinary," Ruppert told Niswander. "There usually are not stars in the small blocks. It's a typical Franklin County pattern. This is one of the nicest quilts we've seen today. It's an excellent, excellent, quilt. It has never been washed; it's in crisp, new condition"

Ruppert dated the quilt as circa 1900. Because there are only three fabrics in the quilt, they most likely were specially purchased for the project, not salvaged from the rag bag, she added.

Niswander said that the quilt is a family heirloom from her mother's side of the family. She plans to ask her 97-year-old aunt who made it.

Dottie Moreland, chairman of the documentation committee, said that the guild hopes to publish a book on the documented quilts.

When people bring in quilts, they are asked about its ownership and history. After examining the quilt, the experts fill out an eight-page, 99-question form about the color, measurements, type of thread, quilting mechanics and many other factors.

Since starting the project in September 2005, the guild has documented 525 quilts in the public meetings and another 70 privately, Moreland said.

The next documentation day is scheduled for April 29 at the United Brethren in Christ Church in Orrstown, Pa. For information, call Mim Huffman at 717-263-3983.

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