Friday, February 20, 2009

A Stitch in Time

Last weekend was the perfect time for a little spring cleaning. The air was dry and the weather was warm. As part of the cleaning ritual, I aired several old quilts, draping them over the porch fence. Quilts are fascinating to me. With thousands of stitches, each handcrafted quilt is a work of art given to our present generation by those who came before us. In a time when there was not much time outside the daily ritual of farm work, women from across the rolling hills of Itawamba County, Mississippi stitched beautiful quilts - unique works of art that also served a utilitarian purpose. It's nice to be warmed on a cold winter's night by one of these unique works of art lovingly crafted by those who came before us.

The photo above includes a late 19th century bow-tie quilt crafted by Amelia Rankin Riley, a pair of Whittemore Patented Number 10 cotton cards and an Itawamba County split white oak basket crafted years ago by the late basket-maker John Johnson - all such items once common in households throughout Itawamba County. Farm families in the olden days would save a portion of their cotton crop for household use, including the production of quilt batting, with the help of such cotton cards. The quilt shown to the left is a simple patchwork quilt crafted by my grandmother during The Great Depression here in Itawamba County. It is amazing that quilts crafted generations ago are still serving their intended purpose today in the 21st century. They are definitely a testament to the craftsmanship of our ancestors from times gone by.


GeneaDiva said...

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and pick up this beautiful award.


Anonymous said...

Did you ever see a quilter carding the cotton to make her own quilt batting? It was an interesting process as I fondly watched my grandmother Kate Robinson Stone busily at work making enough batts
"to fill" the quilt backing stretched onto the quilting frame. When we have seen the size of those little batts, we then realize how or why the delicate quilting patterns were called for because the batts needed to be stabilized when sewn to the top and the backing to prevent them from shiting or bunching. This was quite a different process for quilting by ladies born in the 1880's and that of today's quilters when the batting is factory made into widths to fit King sized quilts and purchased at craft stores and will most likely be made of synthetic fibers instead of cotton. bettye

Anonymous said...

I certainly enjoyed seeing the pair of cards again as I remember my grandmothers and probably they actually belonged to her mother. I have many quilts passed down from loved ones and I treasure each one. I do have a question and I didn't know where to send it so I will just leave it here. My great-grandfather was a Justice of the Peace in Splunge, Itawamba county. I was always told that he had beautiful penmanship. He was about 20 in 1862 so I think he must have been JP after that time period. Where would I go to look up the JP's in the mid to late 1800's. I don't know if that area might have been listed as AL at that time. Thanks. My email address is

Bob Franks said...

Thanks for the award Margaret. I've never seen anyone using cotton batts before Bettye, but I have experimented with batting cotton. It's amazing how soft and fluffy the cotton is after this process.

Bob Franks said...

What was your great grandfather's name who was the Justice of the Peace? Most records of this nature are housed in the Chancery Court Clerk's office in the courthouse and also the Circuit Court Clerk. If I knew his name, I could probably find out exactly when he was elected and how long he served.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for responding. My great-grandfather's name was James M. Young. I am visiting family here and I can go over to the court house, I just didn't know where to start. Thanks again, you have been a big help to me.