October 2021

Covering Quilts

Virginia is for quilt lovers -Adventures in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

by Sandra Starley


Antique quilt historians look forward to the annual Seminar of the American Quilt Study Group held yearly (well, except last year) in a different location around the United States. This year’s site was the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. It is so full of history and amazing quilts and offered many quilt history adventures.

Harrisonburg was our home base. It is a charming college town (James Madison University) with a very special treasure, the Virginia Quilt Museum. Before the official seminar even started, the early birds were treated to a stunning series of bed turnings and access to several special antique quilt exhibits at the museum, as well as an unexpected surprise — the current art quilt exhibit, In Deeds Not Words, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This finally gave women the right to vote in national elections. Before that time, women could only vote with their needles, creating quilts to support important causes. Visit the museum’s Facebook page to see videos of the exhibits.

One of the big draws of seminar is the opportunity to explore new areas and learn about regional quilt styles. The Shenandoah Valley did not disappoint! The next two days included several different tours of local historical societies, museums, Quaker homes from the 1700s, and even an historic plantation. It was like stepping back in time. It was amazing to experience the beauty and history of the valley. One of the seminar highlights was a bed turning featuring the fabulous Virginia Quilt Collection of Beverly and Jeffrey Evans.

Then it was on to the more serious and scholarly part of the conference – two days listening to the research papers published in AQSG’s Journal, Uncoverings for 2020 and 2021. These papers covered the gamut of quilt history from 200 years of New York quilts to present-day Instagram quilting communities. Additionally, there were a number of other research presentations — so many opportunities to learn about interesting new quilt topics. Additional offerings were Quilt Study sessions – a dozen different classes/discussions/trunk shows highlighting regional topics like Southern Quilts and Carrying a Quilt Back to Old Virginny, as well as general subjects like Feed Sacks and Charm Quilts. We were also treated to several talks on the Quilts and Decorative Arts of the Shenandoah Valley.

Silent Auction

AQSG members bidding on Silent Auction items. Just a hint of the many treasures available, generously donated by fellow members. (Photo by Sandra Starley)

Antique Quilt

AQSG members enjoying a bed turning of Virginia antique quilts from the collection of Beverley and Jeffrey Evans. (Photo by Sandra Starley)

Medallion Quilt Study

Not only do we exchange lots of quilt history information; members of AQSG recreate pieces of history too. One of the special displays at seminar was the Medallion Quilt Study, featuring 50 newly made quilts inspired by antique quilts in museum and personal collections. These small gems will be featured in a book along with their antique inspirations and stories. Twenty-five of the quilts were selected to travel the country for exhibits at museums, historical societies and quilt shows.

Did I mention all the wonderful opportunities to buy antique quilts, needlework tools, books, and other quilty treasures? There was a vendor mall full of national quilt dealers with stunning quilts and a silent auction room with hundreds of quilty delights. All of this was topped by the live auction led by local auctioneer Jeffrey Evans assisted by a team of Jeffrey-ettes. Bidding was lively and did much to boost the coffers of this valuable organization (AQSG). See their Facebook page for videos of the festivities. We renewed old friendships and made new ones. We simply enjoyed being with our tribe. I hope you’ll join AQSG (americanquiltstudygroup.org). See you next fall at Seminar 2022 in San Diego!


Sandra Starley is nationally certified quilt appraiser, quilt historian, and avid antique quilt collector. She travels throughout the U.S. presenting talks on antique quilt history, fabric dating classes and trunk shows as well as quilting classes. Learn more at utahquiltappraiser.blogspot.com. Send your comments and quilt questions to SandraStarley@outlook.com