Denise Dutton Benshoof, Joanna’s mother and the organizer of Prospect Quilting Heritage Days, said the recent quilt documentation highlighted ties both physical and abstract that bind generations together.
For example, several friendship quilts were submitted that featured the names of former and current Prospect residents.
“What I wanted was to get people talking about where the quilts came from—family connections, community connections – and that’s what I got,” Benshoof said.
Volunteers documented 33 quilts during the two-day event held at Prospect Methodist Church in Nauvoo. Seven local quilters requested a home visit at a later date because they had too many pieces to bring to the church.
Although hand-stitched quilts of any time period were preferred, those machine-made before 1970 were accepted as well. The pieces also had to be made in the Prospect area.
“It was neat to see where people had shared patterns, and we also received some original patterns,” said Benshoof, who has a certification in heritage preservation.
All of the information collected during Prospect Quilting Heritage Days will be donated to the Archive of Alabama Folk Culture in Montgomery.
Kathy Bozeman, a Saragossa resident who has taught quilting to teens as well as women in their 70s, said she is glad that Prospect’s history and the art itself will be preserved.
“There’s already been a big move toward machine quilting. It is very hard to find someone to hand-stitch a quilt these days,” Bozeman said.
The earliest quilt documented last weekend was from the late 1930s. The modern work of the 100-year-old Prospect Methodist quilting group was represented in Polaroid pictures of 159 quilts they made between 1995 and 1997.
Janelle Baughns, a longtime member of the group, brought nearly a dozen quilts to the documentation.
Memories flooded back to Baughns as she watched the quilts being photographed. She picked out several materials in her pieced quilts that had also been used to make either a dress for herself or shirts for her oldest son when he entered the first grade.
Baughns’ “Musical Quilt” was designed by her late son, Gary, in 1993 and made by the Prospect Quilters for Gary’s daughter, Christi Roberts.
The quilt that Baughns made as a young bride generated excitement among several volunteers because the labels on the fertilizer sacks used for backing were still visible. The names of family and friends were also embroidered on the piece.
Baughns’ mother, Maude Smith, was one of the founders of the Prospect Quilters. The group met in Smith’s home before they raised enough money by selling quilts to construct the church basement where they now work on projects every Tuesday.
Smith suffered a stroke while quilting that left her paralyzed on her right side for 16 years.
Baughns’ thoughts turned often to her mother during last weekend’s documentation.
“If you wanted to buy her flowers, get her a piece of material with flowers on it and make her a dress. That’s what she always had me do, so I can see her patterns a lot in these quilts,” Baughns said.