Piecing together history: Civil War ‘bed turning’ event all about quilts of the era

Published 6:32 am Friday, August 10, 2018

The Pieceable Friends Quilt Guild, Boyle County Public Library and the Arts Commission of Danville-Boyle County are sponsoring a Civil War bed turning on Aug. 23. A “bed turning” is a display of quilts arranged in order on a bed, then removed as particular aspects of the quilts are discussed by an expert.

This event will be held in conjunction with the Re-enactment Civil War Quilt Workshop and exhibit Oct. 4-6 at the Perryville Jamboree.

During the Aug. 23 bed turning event, Linda Marean, Sheila Dolan, Elaine Mahaffey and Janie Taylor will join together in discussing the history of quilts, quilt blocks and construction techniques from the Civil War era. They will show quilts that are well preserved antiques, as well as reproduction pieces created of typical block designs from reproduction fabrics.

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Interest in quilts from the Civil War era and other historic timeframes has brought an increase in the availability of high quality fabrics for modern quilters to use.

Women quilted throughout history for many purposes including household needs, fundraising and memorials. Depending on the function of the quilt, fabric may have been acquired specifically for the project or from a stash of scraps saved from worn out clothing and other household woven items. Clues to the age of a quilt can be gathered from the fabrics used as well as the particular design and the colors.

More about Taylor

Taylor, who will be one of the women discussing the quilts, wasn’t born in Danville, but that hasn’t kept her from jumping into a variety of activities and taking on leadership roles, including joining the Garden Club of Danville, where she chairs the scrapbook committee.

Taylor also volunteers with the art department at Danville High School, and was very active in the knitting and crocheting project, which resulted in the Wrap Danville display last spring. She is active in several quilt and needlework groups around Boyle and Mercer counties.

After retiring from careers in education and the technology industry in California, the Taylors decided to relocate closer to some of their family members. Taylor’s primary demand was that there be a room dedicated solely to her sewing needs in whatever home they purchased. When they toured their current home, she knew right away it had possibilities with a finished third floor in the restored Victorian.

Taylor has developed a special interest in the dating of quilts based on the fabrics and colors used to create the design. As a college student in Memphis, she was named the Maid of Cotton by the National Commodity Council. In her role, she traveled all over the country promoting all aspects of the cotton industry, from the growing process through to the weaving of the fabric and the production of finished goods.

Through all of her research, she became adept at identifying the quality and content of virtually any piece of cotton goods.

Taylor became so intrigued by the history of fabric, she completed a degree in fashion merchandising, which was a marketing degree with a fashion emphasis. Following graduation from college, Taylor was hired by Hertz in New York City to oversee the process of redesign and modernization of the corporation’s employee uniforms.

Today, her emphasis is less corporate and more personal. She has always approached fabric and projects from a thorough understanding of the purpose and aesthetics of each piece. Last year, when the Civil War Re-enactment Quilt Workshop was in the planning stages, committee members delved into the available research, discovering details about quilt use of the time. Taylor worked on the Soldier’s Quilt stories. A soldier was sent off to the war with a quilt which was a specified size, as it must serve multiple purposes.

Not only was it a source of warmth, but possibly a medical stretcher and, unfortunately, a shroud to be buried with the fallen soldier. The quilt must be easily folded and rolled into a bundle which was fitted in to the bundle carried on the soldier’s back while marching.

Taylor created a reproduction Soldier’s Quilt, which will be on display and discussed at the bed turning event.


A Civil War bed turning will be 6 p.m. Aug. 23 in the Community Room of the Boyle County Public Library. The event is free and open to the public; refreshments reminiscent of the period will be served. Reservations are required by emailing arts@historicdanvilleky.com.