Most folks who visit the Blue Ridge Mountains quickly learn that a quilt is much more than an aid for keeping warm or a bed covering. It’s art and a craft of love, a visual history, an heirloom, a trove of memories and more.
For years, a treasured quilt from the local Royal family has been displayed in Stone Mountain State Park’s visitor center. Park Superintendent Janet Pearson, fearing that quilt was becoming too fragile with age to display, approached the Alleghany Quilt Guild about a replacement authentic enough to represent turn-of-the-century quilting in the region.
That replacement is being presented this week as part of the park’s Old Fashion Day celebration on Saturday.
To begin the project, 13 quilters from the Alleghany Quilt Guild, Elkin’s Foothills Quilters and the Wilkes Quilt Group spent months researching fabrics and quilt styles of the era. They chose to re-create the crazy-quilt design of the Royal family quilt – called “stacked bars” – as it was the most common one used at that time and made good use of sewing scraps and worn garments.
In December 2012, a crazy-quilt top was found in a local antique shop with fabrics dating from 1860 to 1895. The top was taken apart and fabrics in good shape were set aside. Mixing in reproduction fabrics, the group arranged blocks and hand-pieced them using only tools and techniques that would have been available circa 1900. The quilters eventually used about 70 percent antique and 30 percent reproduction fabrics.
A local church group completed the quilt by hand, quilting in a quick and efficient curved design called “Baptist fan,” because the stitching follows the natural curved arc from a stationary elbow to hand-held needle.
The result is a reproduction quilt that honors the memory and tradition of those who first created quilts in the Stone Mountain community.
Quilters will be on hand at Saturday’s Old Fashion Day to demonstrate the skill, along with artisans in blacksmithing, looming, knife making, basket weaving and more. There’ll be bluegrass music and clogging. It’s all in the picnic area 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.