My Tax Dollars At Work

Note: This post had an accidental premature release. It now has pictures.

Thanks to my husband I found a government program I’m happy to fork over my tax dollars for – the Library of Congress’ Digital Collections. He stumbled across “Quilts and Quiltmaking in America, 1978 to 1996” while looking for something completely different.

The collection is described as follows: “Contains 181 segments from recorded interviews with quiltmakers and 410 graphic images (prints, positive transparencies, and negatives) from two collections in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress: the Blue Ridge Parkway Folklife Project Collection (AFC 1982/00) and the Lands’ End All-American Quilt Contest Collection (AFC 1997/011).”

I’ve been browsing the state and national winners of the Lands’ End quilt contest from the early 1990s. Many are traditional quilts, but a few are a bit edgier. I’ll show some of my favorites in my next post, but here I want to focus on the quilts from the Blue Ridge Parkway Project collection.

They represent an earlier period (up to 1978) and a different aspect of quilt making. Some were made to sell in craft shops but others were made for use or pleasure. The quilters lived along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina. Many were born before 1920 and learned to quilt with materials they had at hand. Some used polyester fabric which was widely available in the 1960s and 1970s as cotton was more expensive. Whatever you may think about quilts made with poly, they wore like iron.

All but one of the quilts shown below were made by Carrie Severt of Alleghany County, Virginia. I think her style is a precursor to the modern quilt movement, though I don’t think she was trying to make a statement.

Carrie Severt Star quilt topHere she is on her front porch with a quilt top and her laundry.

Carrie Severt Nine Patch Variation with BarsA nine patch variation with bars.

Carrie Severt Alleghany County VASeveral quilts with this block are shown in the LOC collection. It looks like a complicated drunkards path.

Carrie Severt String QuiltThis string pieced quilt could be entered in the next QuiltCon. I love how the dashed line fabric gives a sense of movement.

Elizabeth Smith Flower GardenI am sure Elizabeth Smith’s Flower Garden was hand pieced. I love how the pattern is occasionally obscured by the color choices. And that bright orange ruffled edge! Ms. Smith was not afraid of color.


Filed under Commentary

10 responses to “My Tax Dollars At Work

  1. Some of these seem similar in spirit to the far more famous Gee’s Bend quilts, in that the designs are “less than perfect” due to available materials. Thanks for the post!

  2. Great resource! I love the nine patch with bars, and also the one that looks to me like fan blades.

  3. Thanks for the head’s up about this resource!

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