Friday, August 24, 2018

Esther Matthews & the Virginia Quilt Museum!

There were no antique mall stops yesterday.

Not a one.

There was an exhibit I’d been longing to see at the Virginia Quilt Museum in Harrisonburg, Virginia – and every time I’d been up or down I-81 the timing just wasn’t right.

But yesterday was the day.

The only stops I made were for gas and lunch, and I pulled into Harrisonburg about 3pm with plenty of time to spare.




The museum is housed in what used to be the Warren-Sipe House


It also served as a military hospital during the Civil War.


And there it is – the original quilt that has caused such a storm -

The botanical beauty in the collection of the museum made by Esther Blair Matthews!


Esther’s beautiful unique rainbow block front and center!


Pieced by Esther B Matthews, 1858


Age 82.  Rainbow & Sun.

Esther Blair Matthews
(1776 - 1866)

Esther Blair Shaw* was born in 1776 of Irish immigrant parents who had settled in Rockingham County, Virginia before the American Revolution. In 1801 she married Daniel Matthews who was from a Shenandoah Valley pioneer family, originally Pennsylvania Quakers.

Esther and Daniel raised two daughters on a farm named “Locust Grove” located in the toll house community between Lacey Spring and Tenth Legion along the Great Valley Road. The family devoutly followed the Methodist Episcopal faith. After her husband’s death in 1842, Esther lived at Locust Grove with her second daughter Hannah, son-in-law Hiram Martz, and 7 grandchildren.

As a widow Esther often traveled along the Valley Road by stage coach and rail to visit her other daughter Agnes who had married Michael Hines, a medical doctor. Before the Civil War, the Hines family had settled in Montgomery County, in the mountains of southern Virginia. According to family letters, Esther quilted and sewed with her granddaughter Admonia Hines. The Botanical quilt is the only quilt made by Esther known to have survived.

Nine of Esther’s 10 living grandsons served the Confederacy during the Civil War. (One was too young to enlist.) Three died. Esther survived the War and died at Locust Grove in 1866 resulting from a fall, at age 89. She was buried in the Martz family cemetery in Tenth Legion, VA.

(*born “Easter”)
by Neva Hart 2015, courtesy of the author.
Copyright, the Virginia Quilt Museum, used with permission.


Quilt on display.


About the exhibit


Quilts on display, blocks in different sizes – the imagination of each maker!

Every kind of technique was used from fusible to wool to hand needle turned to machine button hole or straight stitch – it was wonderful to see each quilter’s interpretation of Esther’s beautiful quilt.

These folks had worked on these quilts together during a sew-along held on facebook, in conjunction with the blog for the occasion, working from the Shenandoah Botanical Album pattern published by the museum as their starting point – Visit the blog HERE

The link for the pattern is the right hand side bar, so best viewed from a real computer, not a mobile device which cuts off side bars.


A beautiful rendition with a pale grey background.


Small or large, they are all beautiful!


Close up of the quilt above, right.


And so is the museum itself!

Look at this parquet floor!


Fireplace detail.  LOVE!


Each so different!

Look at the rainbows on the border of the one on the right!




Everywhere I turned there was more inspiration from Esther’s botanical album quilt.

I love how these folks joined together to make this exhibit happen.


Esther’s quilt detail.

I wonder what she herself would have thought about all of this!


There is something so special about actual handwriting, isn’t there?

This is why I suggest that even if you print a computer label for your quilt, that you sign it with your own signature – it is something that no one else can replicate.  It’s something personal you leave behind.


There was more in the museum to see as well.

There are 3 floors to the museum – one area upstairs was designated for antique sewing machines and framed quilting templates on the walls.   I loved these machines!


All of them!  And some unique ones, too.


I’ve never seen a Nantasket before.

I also had a good visit with the folks at the museum, and I’ll be stopping back by the next time I’m up this way.

I took more photos – but this post is already fairly long and I’ve got a workshop to head over to!


Last night’s dinner – Jean Bonnet Tavern, circa 1762!

I met up with Mary for dinner as I arrived into town and we hashed out a lot of details as to what is going down this week in Bedford.  6 days of workshops – one lecture tomorrow night! 

There are still openings for NEXT weekend’s Pinwheel Fancy and Wanderlust workshops both from the Addicted to Scraps book. – if you are in the area, call the shop and join on in! The class supply list brochure is found HERE. Email the shop for more details!


Quiltville Quote of the Day!

Applique quilt from the Virginia Quilt Museum in Harrisonburg, VA.

Whether your family came by birth, or by those you've chosen to form your own family unit, hold on tight and let them know you love them!

Time to go meet the troops! 

Have a wonderful Friday, everyone.


  1. I last visited this museum when our son was in college at Eastern Mennonite University and he graduated in 2010! He now lives in Harrisonburg with his family (2 really cute grandsons!). I need to go back to this museum next time we visit. Bonnie, when you stop in again, hope you have time to eat at one of the great restaurants downtown, and don't forget to stop in at Shirley's popcorn to get some unique flavored popcorn.

  2. I am so glad you stopped! I love today's quote. Wish I was close to join your class. It's Fair week. I am anxious to see the all of the Quilts this year. My 3 Granddaughters have Quilts entered. Happy Friday!

  3. Wow - SO beautiful !!! Would love to see it in person. Thanks for sharing Bonnie and enjoy your trip :)

  4. thank you ... for all your sharing ...continued prayers and blessing sent to you and family. Cats

  5. Beautiful Quilts! Hope to visit there one day.

  6. What a wonderful place to spend a few hours . I loved the more modern takes on the vintage quilt but, I have to say, I think the older quilt does the best :-)

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this exhibit!! Quilts like this one, Dear Jane, and Farmer's Wife are fascinating, and it's fun to see today's quilters reinterpreting such complex masterpieces. They're way, way beyond my current level of ambition, but always inspiring to see and enjoy!

  8. I've got boxes of my Grandmothers quilting templates. Maybe I should frame some of them. It is a great idea.

  9. Nantaskit is a town just south of Boston Massachusetts. on the south shore. There was a huge amusement park there up until the late 70's I grew up nof far from there

    1. I was about to write the same thing. I grew up near Nantasket and we went to the beach and amusement park every summer. As a teenager I did live-in babysitting, so spent whole summers there. My parents were divorced and my dad ended up living there from when I was in college intil he died in 1991. He taught us to warer ski there.

      Love the quilts. I don't do much appliqué but I love to look at it.

  10. Continued prayers for your family.

  11. Thank you, Bonnie for sharing! It's so lovely to see our SVBAQ from another perspective! You've captured the essence of a wonderful exhibit and I was so grateful to be able to share this adventure with other SVBAQ lovers!

  12. What a fabulous quilt and fabulous museum. I wish I had known about the Sew Along - I would have sewn along. Maybe they'll repeat it some day. Thank you for sharing this, Bonnie.

  13. Thanks for this coverage of what looks like a great show! We visited the museum last spring for the first time, but I expect to stop by whenever in the area. It is a lovely space.

  14. Beautiful quilt. Don't see the rainbow motif often. The museum is in Harrisonburg. I went to school at JMU in the mid to late 70's. Great memories. (Tim Rickman on dquilterguy's computer)

  15. Thanks so much for sharing the museum with us. It will go on my bucket list of places to see.

  16. Hi, sweet lady. Really enjoyed "seeing" your visit to VQM. Prayers to you and your family. A gentle hug to your brother.

  17. I was fortunate enough to visit the museum in the summer of 2015 when they were presenting the Dear Jane quilts. Everything was displayed so well and everyone was very cordial. They were having a book sale on the porch and I found many interesting books to take home too. I look forward to going there again sometime. Thanks for sharing your excursion....it felt like I was able to tag along!

  18. I was supposed to be in the Tropical Twister class, but due to a series of "life events", didn't make it. Thank you for the virtual quilt display! Both the original quilt and the others in the exhibit are so interesting. The writing on old quilts - this one and friendship quilts, etc. - would that have been done with the everyday ink pens in use at the time? I'm impressed by how well the writing has stood up. Heck, I'm impressed by the writing itself! Such beautiful penmanship. Thanks again, Bonnie, for showing me something I would not have seen.


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