Sunday, February 7, 2010

Quilt Appreciation Days on Harkers Island

This last Friday and Saturday in the spacious barn-like wing of the Core Sound Waterfowl & Heritage Museum on Harkers Island, North Carolina, the atmosphere was somewhere between a bustling rug bazaar and a surprise birthday party. Before 10 AM, people started parading in bearing stacks of old quilts or wheeling in suitcases of their treasures. They plopped down in front of the registration table and the stories started reeling out. "This quilt was pieced by my great granddad's sister and she had seven children..." The registrants did yeoman duty as they carefully listened and noted all the family information about the quilts and gave each piece a number. This went on for two whole days.

The second stop was at the photographer's tables where the quilt got a pinned-on sleeve and was hoisted against a white wall for its "portrait shots": an allover picture, a detail, and then the back pinned up in a triangle across the quilt. Then the quilts came to Lynn Gorges' and my tables where we measured the quilt, looked up its pattern name in a Brackman reference book, speculated on age and considered the quilt's condition. Each evaluation table had at least four helpers: an evaluator, a scribe and two people who worked as a pair examining the quilt and calling out measurements. If the quilt owners had interesting stories, we urged them to 'sit a spell' and give an oral history for the Museum. We even rescued two quilts from the back of a pick-up going to the dump--worn-true-but usable by the Museum staff as exhibit backdrops.

Most of the quilts we saw were pieced quilts with only a rare Dresden Plate, applique, or crazy quilt. Many were string-pieced or a Log Cabin variation, a favorite pattern in these parts. One lovely faded partially patchwork, partially crazy-pieced quilt had all the bells and whistles: use of common dress goods and home-spuns, hand pieced and quilted, a creative combination of patterned blocks and scrap techniques, and marked in a Core Banks Cross, an allover X-type quilting style seemingly indigenous to Downeast North Carolina.

Can you see the X? The design was marked with a taut chalked string plucked at diagonal corners when the top was first put into the frame and then each quadrant of the X got parallel diagonal lines marked with the aid of a piece of lath. Ladies told me it didn't matter what pattern your quilt was-Flower Garden, Nine Patch, Log Cabin. If the quilting groups at Stacy or Atlantic quilted your quilt, you got the Core Banks Cross!

I hope to have many more pictures from Quilt Appreciation Days to share. But today the plan is to lay back, watch the Super Bowl, and enjoy the lasagna Rod has in the oven.