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A Look Back: The Stories Quilts Tell

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By Jolene Hawkins

Look back upon the designs and unique qualities of some of the quilts that have been donated to the Concord Historical Society by the local families and you’ll be amazed. The quilt you see in the photograph belonged to Mrs. Florence Childs and was made in 1836 by her great-great-great-aunt, Pantha Woolcott. The wool was gathered from their own sheep, dyed and spun and then used in creating this spread using Jacquard weave. It’s called a double rose pattern and we believe this might have been her masterpiece, as her name is on two corners of the quilt.

Many pioneer families had looms for weaving suiting, blankets and carpeting. When these looms had four frames carrying heddles with warp threads strung through them, they could produce both plain weave and twill weave, which is more suitable for clothing because it conforms more closely to a wearer’s body. These looms could also produce simple geometric patterns for coverlets and tablecloths.

Fancy weaving refers to fabrics — usually to coverlets — with intricate designs. The looms that could produce such designs had either a Jacquard attachment with punched cards that controlled the position of each warp thread to form the pattern, or a cylinder studded with pegs that controlled the location of each warp thread for every woof thread added. Looms so equipped were intricate and required intelligence and experience to operate. Usually these skills were learned by apprentices and were passed on in families.

Among our collections of items that have been donated to the Concord Historical Society are several woven and pieced quilts that were made by local families with so many talented ladies. Some of the quilts had stories themselves.

Fabric was used from clothing that was falling apart and could not be worn anymore, or scraps of fabric that was left over and then cut into shapes of all sizes. Then a design was created using the small pieces of fabric, batting was added and the top and bottom were quilted together.

Within the tiny scraps of fabric was a story: from the blanket of a baby, pieces of a wedding dress, part of grandfather’s tie, a jacket, where they came from, who they belong to, what happened to them. Stories that the parents would tell the child, or to you, and when you wrapped up in it, the memories and stories would come back and family history is passed on.

You can view this quilt during the Art Crawl on May 5 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Lucy Bensley Center located at 23 North Buffalo St. here in Springville — be sure to check out the stained glass window that is located at the peak of the ceiling. This round window was installed when the building was the Universalist Church in 1897. Depending on what time of the day is, different colors will pop out as the sun shines through it. It is one of the treasures of the past that gets overlooked.

The Annual Downtown Springville Art Crawl is free to attend and you will be able to walk and stop at — or crawl — among the artwork, created by local artisans in the participating locations.  There will be local bands playing and, if we can see the sidewalk by then, there will be chalk artwork that will be seen on them. Of course, we cannot forget the tidbits of food that is always around at events like this. At the end of the Art Crawl, refreshments will be served in the Olmstead Gallery.

Have any questions? Want to share some of your family stories with us, maybe a photograph or two? Have any items you would like to donate to the Concord Historical Society? Contact us at (716) 592-0094 or email us at lucybensleycenter@gmail.com.

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