Mississippi Quilts

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by Mary Elizabeth Johnson, paperback
224 pages, University Press of Mississippi
For generations, hundreds of Mississippi women have stitched quilts, creating a rich body of folk art and enlivening the centuries-old tradition of quilting.

The Mississippi Quilt Association embarked on a six-year project to document this significant craft heritage. Throughout the state, association members gathered heirloom quilts from families and from major collections. Of more than 1700 quilts examined, 140 were chosen for full-color photographs to represent the very best from the state.

Co-published with the Association, Mississippi Quilts is a thorough examination of the state's quilting heritage before 1946, when synthetic fabrics and batting became widely available. The featured quilts, created from the early 1800s to 1946, are joined by archival black-and-white illustrations of selected quilt makers and by historical photos by Eudora Welty.

From the beginning of the project, Welty, a Mississippi writer and photographer, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and a member of the Mississippi Quilt Association, served as Honorary Chair. Mississippi Quilts features five of Welty's photographs as chapter dividers, along with quilt-related quotations from her work.

Most of the quilts featured are handmade. Each is described by pattern, date, maker, current owner, material specifications, and size. Quilts from such prominently known makers as Hystercine Rankin and Martha Skelton are handsomely presented alongside group works by family artisans of superb skill.

The book contains 152 color photographs of Mississippi quilts and photographs of a number of quilt makers. Exemplified is a wide range of quilts, from exquisite broderie perse to humble string quilts pieced on paper and made from an assortment of scrap fabric, including feed sacks. Examples of the more popular patterns-Double Wedding Ring, Friendship-Autograph, a myriad of different stars, Grandmother's Flower Garden, and Nine Patch-are included. Also pictured are more unusual patterns such as original applique designs, rare Target quilts, and crazy quilts depicting events from the makers' lives.

List price: $40