Belle Grove quilt comes home for exhibit

At this year’s Antiques Appraisal and Traditional Crafts Fair on Saturday and Sunday, Belle Grove Plantation will also play host to a plethora of quilts from around the Shenandoah Valley.

The quilt exhibit serves to mark the 20th anniversary of the Virginia Quilt Museum, which originated at Belle Grove during its development. Now based in Harrisonburg, the museum hosts a number of exhibits from across the state and country. But according to museum director Kim McCray, its collection was once composed of 15 quilts from the Shenandoah Valley.

The museum will contribute antique quilts from the area to the exhibit alongside some pieces from the Civil War era that Belle Grove owns but seldom shows to the public. Executive Director Kristen Laise said many of those quilts are in pristine condition and the plantation wants to keep it that way.

“We would hate for those colors to start to fade…it’s not good practice to leave them out all the time, so we rarely get them out,” she said.

Several quilts come from descendents of the Hite family and some come from Union sympathizer Carolyn Heater, who created her quilts during the course of the war while her two sons fought for the Confederacy. Strasburg Museum loaned some of Heater’s quilts alongside the museum’s contributions, further fleshing out the exhibit.

“Each room has a little bit of a theme, and just to even put their quilts up against our quilts so you can compare them is really a neat treat,” Laise said.

The “Belle Grove Album Quilt,” made by Virginia master quilters for the museum’s benefit in 1991, will be coming from the museum and showcased in its own room. Painstakingly made in the Baltimore album style by stitching down appliqués, it bears a section with an image of the Belle Grove Manor House and each panel is dedicated to a member of the manor’s Hite family. When auctioned off in 1991, it raised around $20,000 for the museum.

Laise said that in the ’80s and ’90s before the museum formed, Belle Grove served as a sort of hub for quilters and quilter guilds where members could look at swatches and trade techniques.

“Quilting was a reason they came to Belle Grove…it was a big part of our organization for a period time and when the museum broke off…there’s a sense of loss, I think of some of that tradition in Belle Grove,” she said.

Local quilt guilds will also display some modern pieces in one room of the exhibit and the manor’s Winter Kitchen will host hand quilting demonstrations.

Besides checking out the exhibit and watching the masters at work, attendees can still have their antiques appraised by certified appraisers Sandra Perry and Will Paulson from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Each appraisal will cost $10 or three items can be appraised for $25.

IF YOU GO:

• 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Belle Grove Plantation, 336 Belle Grove Rd. in Middletown.
• Admission is $12 for adults, $11 for seniors and military members, $6 for members of the Virginia Quilt Museum, Belle Grove and National Trust and children aged 6 to 16. Children under 6 will be admitted free.
• Contact Belle Grove at 540-869-2028

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com

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