Wednesday, February 22, 2012

BOOK: Storied Stitches: Quilts and Coverlets of the Smokies

I bought this book on our trip to the mountains last year.  I found it in the Smoky Mountain NP Visitor Center.  It's a great little book detailing some wonderful history of handmade items that were produced in the area.  I thought I'd share a bit of it because it was quite fascinating to me. This is an excerpt from the introduction; "People in the Great Smoky Mountains certainly knew thin times.  But no matter how threadbare things might have gotten, they always thick bedcovers to keep them warm at night.  Quilts and coverlets made by hand wee part of almost every mountain home."

Quilted cushion and doll quilt.
The quilt examples in the book are quite stunning.  You can definitely see the work that was put into them.  It mentions several women, but the Walker sisters in particular are pretty interesting.  They fought hard to be able to stay on their land.  Most of the people in the area were kicked off so the national park could be established.  They, however, were granted a lifelong lease to remain on their land.  There were well-known quilters (and pretty tough broads). 

The Walker sister's treadle machine
A young girl at a loom-1930
 The old photographs are so fascinating to me.  Documenting the lives of these women and the hard work they did.  I can only imagine the work that went into their every day lives.

Master weaver Karen George showing the technique of finger weaving. I"d love to learn to do this!
The coverlets discussed in the book are also quite stunning.   It also discusses weaving that was done by the Native Americans of the area.   The intricate patterns and the amazing colors that can be created are so beautiful.  I've done some loom weaving in college and I know it's a lot of work!

A woman and her boys working the dye pot--1920s.
 Most of these women had to make everything they used.  So to make a piece of fabric for a coverlet you had to do a lot of work; gathering and preparing the fiber, spinning it into thread, dying the thread and then weaving it into a piece of fabric. Amazing really.
Fanny and Zillah Wilson piece fabric together for a quilt--1933
I'm so glad I picked up this book.  It's a great look into the past and has beautiful pictures and stories of these amazing women.  It's so important to preserve this history.  At the end of the book, you'll even find six traditional quilt patterns like Log Cabin and Tulip to try for yourself.  If you're interested in getting yourself a copy of this, you can find it here.  I would recommend it if you are interested in the history. You definitely gain some perspective on how hard people had to work.

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