Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Stories in the Stitches: East Tennessee Historical Society Quilts

Detail of a quilt by Iora Almina Philo Pool (1855-1903), Rugby, Tennessee.
East Tennessee Historical Society 

Now that the heavenly bodies are back where they should be it's time to get back to antique quilts.
Above a detail from one of the great late-19th-century creations.

This quilt was recorded in the Quilts of Tennessee project and appeared in their book where Bets Ramsey wrote that Pool's blocks,
"Having no regular set...flow into each other in happy medley."

This quilt and others from the East Tennessee Historical Society's collection are now on display in Knoxville's East Tennessee History Center. Stories in Stitches: Quilts from the ETHS Collection will be up until January 2, 2018.
"East Tennessee families treasure quilts made by their ancestors. Besides warming and decorating the bed, quilts also serve as reminders of important events—births, weddings, service to our country, the death of loved ones. Often, these memories are preserved in notes attached to the quilts or through stories handed down to younger generations. Sometimes notes are lost and memories fade, leaving families with a 'mystery quilt.'
 Did Grandma Jones or Granny Smith make this quilt? Or, was it Aunt Jane? When did she make it? Why did she choose this pattern? What caused this stain or that tear? These are some of the mysteries that quilt historians try to address through genealogical research and technical analysis.
From histories handed down to mysteries that remain, this exhibition provides visitors the opportunity to learn the 'stories in stitches' from the quilts that have been trusted to the East Tennessee Historical Society since 1992."
Curators Jan Wass and Merikay Waldvogel have been studying some of these quilts for several years. Another exceptional quilt on display is the Knoxville Crazy Quilt made between 1898 and 1918.

"I think the Knoxville Sentinel is the cheapest & best paper to take."
Details from a crazy quilt by Lillie Harvey (1859-1934)

Lillie Harvey seems to have made a Knoxville advertising quilt, including dressed pictures---
paper figures clothed in fabric and attached with embroidery---of local businesses with what looks like advertising copy.

"I wish Mama would buy bread and cake from Kerns"

"Pure Sweet Milk. No water in it."

The show includes sources for some of Lillie's imagery.

"Wait for Me"

Merikay will give you your own private 25-minute lecture on
the Harvey crazy quilt in a You-Tube video at this page:

And see more about Iora Pool's medley of patterns quilt here at the Quilt Index:


  1. If my memory serves me (and it rarely does these days), the quilt guild in Knoxville reproduced this quilt. I saw it at the first seminar I attended in Gatlinburg in 1987. What a treat. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. They did reproduce that quilt. I thought I'd do a post on that some day soon. Have to find good photos though.

  3. Love this quilt! Maybe this describes my life? "Having no regular set... (days)flow into each other in happy medley."

  4. It's definitely the way to live---and to quilt.

  5. I might love this sampler quilt more than any I've seen in a long time. It makes me smile to see it.

  6. The You Tube video is not closed caption so it is lost to me.

  7. Merikay's video was so enjoyable - thanks!
    Kathe D