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Quilt exhibit to celebrate Mount Airy's centennial


Quilts have played a prominent role in Mount Airy's centennial year.

The town's centennial quilt, made by 22 local women over the course of a year, features 26 town landmarks and hangs in Mount Airy's Town Hall.

The quilt theme surfaces again this month in "Timeless Treasures: Mount Airy's Centennial Celebration Quilt Exhibit." The exhibit will feature about 40 antique quilts, most of which have been handed down through generations of local families.

The quilts will be on display July 15-17 at the Mount Airy Senior Center, 703 Ridge Ave.

Judy Elwood, a veteran quilter who coordinated the centennial quilt project, came up with the idea for the antique quilt display.

"There are a lot of competitions for modern-day quilts, but I thought it would be nice to tie this into the centennial," said Mrs. Elwood, who moved to Mount Airy two years ago.

"Personally, it's given me a great deal of pleasure to meet people in the community and talk to them about their quilts," she said.

The oldest quilts in the display date back 130 years to the Civil War period; the most modern are from the 1930s.

Helen Simpson's contribution to the exhibit is an 118-year-old family quilt, made for her grandfather, John T. Baker, by his mother. The quilt was a wedding gift.

"It's creating interest in the quilts and learning the stories behind them," Mrs. Simpson, 77, said of the antique quilt exhibit.

Her quilt features a "bear paw" pattern in red, green and cream, which was popular at the time it was made.

Mrs. Simpson said her family has used the quilt only for special occasions over the years.

"At Christmastime I might have it folded on a bed where somebody might see it," Mrs. Simpson said. "It was my grandfather Baker's and he was kind of special in our family."

She said that other family quilts became worn from use and haven't survived the years.

On hot summer nights when she was a child, Mrs. Simpson

would take a quilt out on the lawn and sleep under the stars.

"That was our air conditioning," she said.

Laura Day, 79, is donating three quilts to the exhibit. She made one when she was a teen-ager, her grandmother made one and Mrs. Day, her mother and her grandmother made the third.

"They show the work of three generations," she said.

Mrs. Elwood said most of the antique quilts in the exhibit are decorative and weren't used for utilitarian purposes, such as bedding.

"The ones that have remained to this day are the ones that were considered special and weren't used very much," she said.

Most of the quilts in the exhibit are "piece" quilts, which are made from leftover material from clothing, and not applique quilts, which are made from fabric specifically purchased for the quilt.

Mrs. Elwood explained the absence of applique quilts in geographical terms.

"In the city, people were generally more affluent and had better access to new fabrics," she said. In rural areas, such as Mount Airy, quilters tended to use "pieces" of material to make their quilts, she said.

Mrs. Elwood plans to spend the next two weeks preparing the exhibit.

She's making fact cards to go with each quilt, listing the quilter and the history of the quilt. In some cases, pictures of the quilters will also be displayed.

The quilts that are too fragile to hang will be displayed on tables.

During her search for quilts, Mrs. Elwood discovered many more than can fit in the exhibit, she said. She hinted that a second show may be in the works.

The antique quilts will be on exhibit from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 15 and 16, and from noon to 6 p.m. July 17 at the Senior Center. Admission is free.

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