Olde Kent quilters and historians: (l-r) Judi Guenther and Bev Birkmire (seated), Bobbi Pippin and Gwinn Derricott (standing).

Information on quilts documented in Kent County will soon reside on the online Quilt Index. The documentation project, conducted in 2006-2007, collected data on 279 quilts owned by Kent County residents. Construction details, fabric and pattern identification, digital photographs, and information about the quilt maker are included in the quilt records. The Quilt Index, managed by Michigan State University, is a digital database of thousands of images and stories about quilts from around the world.

The Kent County quilt data includes bed coverings made between the early 1800’s and 1950, the majority of items constructed after 1925. Kent County’s quilts represent a variety of quilting techniques — red work, crazy, pieced and appliqued. Two popular patterns were nine patch and nine patch variations, and grandmother’s flower garden. Very unique within the Kent County data are quilts made using men’s wool suiting fabric samples and quilts with shirt fabric scraps from the Rock Hall shirt factory. Another item included is the Chestertown Homemakers quilt, created in 1976, that hangs in the Kent County Commissioners hearing room.

Preparing and transferring the data for each quilt to the national Index represents Phase 4 of a project begun in 2006. Transferring data about the Kent County quilts to the on-line database makes the information accessible to researchers, folklife scholars and quilters worldwide . Prior phases of the Kent Documentation project included planning and fundraising, conducting documentation days, and in 2009 presenting an exhibit of important Kent County family quilts in three locations throughout the county.

Both project leadership and completion of the work efforts for all 4 phases of the project have been completely volunteer. Beverly Birkmire of Olde Kent Quilters has provided overall project leadership since 2006. Nine volunteers from the Kent County quilting community have supported the current phase of the project — creating electronic records of the data recorded on paper forms in 2006-7 and standardizing the digital images. Olde Kent Quilters and the Helena Hibbs endowment of the Quilt Guild of Dallas provided financial support to Phase 4.

Volunteer hours for this phase total more than 175 and six public Quilt Documentation Days to gather information occurred in 2006-2007. Original participants in the Documentation Days phase of the project included Olde Kent Quilters Guild, Maryland Extension, and the Historical Society of Kent County. Project activities in 2006-2009 received financial support from the Kent Cultural Alliance and Stories of the Chesapeake. An earlier documentation project was conducted in 1988-89 by the Kent County Extension Homemakers. Sixty-three quilts made before 1934 were documented by that effort.

For more information contact: Bev Birkmire at birkmire@atlanticbb.net or Jean Austin at jeanfaustin@gmail.com. For more information about the Quilt Index visit quiltindex.org or on Facebook.