Sunday, October 21, 2007

An Itawamba County Hill Country Social Event For Generations: The Quilting Bee

From the earliest times up until the Twentieth Century, one of the favorite social pastimes in the hill country of Itawamba County was the quilting party, or sometimes referred to as the quilting bee. Neighbors from far and wide would come to the chosen house and produce beautiful quilts. Today in Itawamba County, these artistic treasures from a time go by or stored in many attics and closets.

Below is a description of the quilting bee, the social event that was ever so popular in Itawamba County for generations, as described in 1860:

"…the Yeomen of the South are also quite social and gregarious in their instincts, and delight much in having all kinds of frolics and family gatherings during the long winter evenings. On all such occasions, nearly, something serviceable is the ostensible cause of their assembling , though the time is devoted almost wholly to social pleasures: sometimes, ‘tis true, there is a wedding, or a birth-day party, or a candy-pulling; but much more frequently it is a corn-husking, or the everlasting quilting – this last being the most frequent and most in favor of all the merrymakings which call the young people together.

There is, indeed, nothing to compare to a country quilting for the simple and unaffected happiness which it affords all parties. The old women and old men sit demurely beside the blazing kitchen fire, and frighten one another with long-winded ghost stories; thus leaving the young folks all to themselves in the 'big room,' wherein is also the quilt frame, which is either suspended at the corners by ropes attached to the ceiling, or else rests on the tops of four chairs. Around this assemble the young men and the young maidens, robust with honest toil and honestly ruby-cheeked with genuine good heatlh.

The former know nothing of your dolce far niente or dyspepsia, and the latter are merry as larks and happy as it is possible for men and women to be in this lower world. No debts, no duns, no panics, nor poverty, nor wealth disturbs their thoughts or mars their joyousness of the hour. Serene as a summer’s day, and cloudless as the skies in June, the moments hurry by, as they ply their nimble needles and sing their simple songs, or whisper their tales of love, heedless of the great world and all the thoughtless worldings who live only to win the smiles of 'our best society.' Meanwhile the children play hide and seek, in-doors and out, whooping, laughing and chattering like so many magpies; and, in the snug chimney-corner, Old Bose, the faithful watch-dog, stretches himself out to his full length and does comfortably in the genial warmth of the fire, in his dreams chasing after imaginary hares, or baying the moon…”

Hundley, D.R., Social Relations of Our Southern States, Henry B. Price, New York, 1860, pp. 216-217

Quilt Photography by Bob Franks

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