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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stitches In Time

This week, from March 22-27, the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society is running a display of antique quilts. At the same time, there is a display of about 30 coverlets at the Hans Herr House. There is an admission charge of $5 to see either one of the "Stitches In Time" displays or $8 for a combined ticket to see both displays.
This was my regular day to volunteer at the historical society. I never know what I will be doing. Last week I helped get the quilts ready to display and today I was the guide for people coming to see the quilts. (Fringe benefit---I got to see all the quilts without paying.) We had a steady stream of visitors all day except over the lunch hour. Some were local people but others were from Minnesota, Oregon, and even England and France. Most of our guests were ladies but two men were also in my tour groups today.
The oldest quilt I showed was made in 1856 and the newest was made in 1925. A very closely quilted map of Pennsylvania with patches in the shapes of all the counties was made in 1902 and looks like it just came off the frame yesterday. There are a couple Amish quilts on display as well. My pick of the display is a crazy quilt made between 1870-1889 by Mary Ann (Mann) Rohrer. The decorative top-stitching is extremely precise and greatly varied in types and colors of stitches. The initials embroidered on it are so perfect they look like they were done on a machine. I don't know if they had embroidery machines in 1870 but I doubt it. One silk patch on the crazy quilt has frayed but otherwise it is in perfect condition.
In the background of this picture is one of the quilts which is permanently on display at the historical society. It was made 1905-1915 by Susanna Gehman for her granddaughter, Susanna H. Gehman. The outstanding feature of this one is not so much the quilting as the appliqued farm scenes. The quilt was never used and is in perfect condition.
The timing of this display was no accident. The American Quilters Society is having a show and convention in Lancaster from Wednesday through Saturday. The Lancaster newspaper reports that 20,000 people are expected to come from 47 states and five foreign countries. Many downtown merchants have hung quilts in their show windows and they will extend their hours to accommodate quilters.
You can read about the quilt convention here:

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