Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Mountain Artisans Quilting Book

Today on the QuiltArt list someone mentioned finding this book listed as an "antique" book, which shocked her since it was published in 1973. She then joked that maybe her copy was worth $500, which then set off a flurry of excitement and misunderstanding when others thought their copies were suddenly very valuable! Not true. There are hundreds of used copies available on the internet. The lowest price I found was .73. Most are going for about $1.50. Then the resident list librarian clarified that "antiquarian" (not antique) books are just books that are now out of print, some valuable, some not.

This is the first quilt book I ever owned and I remember really loving this true story about a group of women in the mountains and hollows of West Virginia who formed a quilting cooperative and caught the attention of the fashion and decorating world. I was very taken with this photo of Sharon Rockefeller, then the young and attractive first lady of the state of West Virginia and a big supporter of the Mountain Artisans. She popularized the patchwork "hostess" skirts made by the artisans. I immediately made myself a floor-length patchwork skirt. I suppose it qualifies as the first quilt I ever made.
I have to tell you it was hard to walk in. It had no batting, but was lined and it beat against my legs, "whap, whap" as I walked and tended to grab at my ankles. It was warm, though. I remember wearing it one snowy Christmas day and feeling not only warm and cozy, but very chic!
Quite a few years went by after that before I made another quilt, but this book really put the idea of making quilts in my head.

Looking at the pictures now, it is hard to recapture my fascination. The fabrics in the picture above look dreadful to me. But this quilt, done all in solids still has a cheerful charm that I like.
And the quilt on the cover, made for Governor and Mrs. Rockefeller, is quite special. I think it could win prizes today. Remembering this book today and looking through it again brought back a lot of memories. It had a huge impact on me. Maybe that's why I have kept it all these years.


  1. That was the book from which I got my first directions for making a log cabin quilt in 1975. I had only had Ruby McKim's patchwork book and a couple others before that. Oh what memories! It was a wonderful book back then.

  2. The picture of you in the patchwork skirt is amazing! I think you could still pull it off today!

  3. Anonymous9:57 AM

    I don't think I have ever seen that book! Looks amazing. I agree with Deborah - that skirt is something else! The first wearable art.

  4. Isn't it funny how tastes change? Keeping something that was inspiring even if you have taken your work in other directions is a way of honoring your own past. And cool in and of itself!

  5. My guild's library had this book up for sale in the early 2000's, and I snapped it up. Yes, it's dated, but it has some gems. It's an authentic look back at the style of the 70's. I'm glad it's part of my book collection.

  6. What I loved about this book was the history of women meeting and sharing their needlework.

  7. Kimberly Rado of Sleepy Night Hollow quilt shop has recreated the pattern for the Rockefeller quilt.