ALDERSON W.Va. (WVDN) – For 43 years, beginning in 1980, local Alderson women have gathered to make quilts. But it’s so much more than that. Meeting in the basement of the Alderson Presbyterian Church at its beginning, the ladies came together to do what their mothers and grandmothers have been doing for centuries. They are giving love one piece at a time. They moved to the community center and sold chances to win a quilt to pay for renting the space.
Quilting has its roots dug deep in Appalachia. Once done for the sheer necessity of warmth and the lack of, quilting was a way to fellowship, share news or recipes and exchange local news. It has been a time-honored tradition in many families. It was a joy to come home from school to see Aunt Bessie and Genevieve sitting around Gramma’s table, laps covered in the excess weight of blocks of whatever fabric they could get. Poly blends, shirts, flour sacks, pillowcases and more made their way into a priceless heirloom. Nowadays, cotton is preferred for its giving nature and easy care.
Mary Godby shared her story and regaled listeners with a rich history not to be taken lightly. Today, quilting is not a lost art. It’s an art that is timeless and treasured by many. The ladies created a guild where Godby served as president for many years. A fellow named Don Hill loved to join in, taking on the task of cutting squares. If you know anything about quilting, this can be one of the most tedious jobs. The oldest living member of the original guild is Frances Simmons of Alderson. She is 95 years young.
Some notable achievements worth mentioning: two home economics teachers, Betty Jo Johnson and Eileen Skaggs, had a quilt entered in the National Quilt Show in Houston, Texas, years ago. They won a prestigious national award for the quality and beauty of their piece. Jeanette Albaugh had a quilt featured in the magazine, “Keepsake Quilting.”
Fannie Upton and Hazel Kincaid had learned the art of quilting on frames. Usually, the frames consist of two-by-fours connected to either end to stretch it out and lay across a wooden horse. Machine quilting is an acceptable way of working as well. Members range from beginners to show winners and take pride in knowing their hard work will last a lifetime for the recipient.
March is National Quilting Month. But, here in Greenbrier County, the ladies have their beautiful works displayed during November at the Greenbrier Visitor’s Center in Lewisburg. Other locally handmade gifts and sundries are available as well.
Standing at around 25 members today, their efforts are received at many other charities, including Quilts for Cancer, where a quilt is gifted to a fighter or survivor of cancer. Donations are also in the form of baby quilts. They also participate in the much-heralded, Quilts of Valor.
Quilts of Valor (QOV) is an organization that awards veterans or service members who have been touched by war, a handmade quilt. The comforting and healing quilt says unequivocally, “Thank you for your service and sacrifice in serving our nation.” A veteran must be nominated and accepted. A registered label is affixed to each one. Catherine Roberts is the founder of the society. The community can nominate a service member at qov.org.
To learn more about QOV, explore the website at Quilts of Valor Foundation.
Monetary donations to support the cause can be made using a credit card with the online process at this link. You can also mail a check payable to Quilts of Valor Foundation to Quilts of Valor Foundation, P.O. Box 191, Winterset, IA 50273, or by calling 515-619-6556.
This age-old art is quite something. Stop by the Visitors Center to see the incredible displays of a rich Appalachian heritage for November.
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