Skip Navigation

"Quilt of Happy Memories"

Mabel Moore of Nallen

By Fawn Valentine

Mabel Moore made this Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt in 1933-'34. She calls it the "Quilt of Happy Memories" in honor of the many friends with whom she quilted in the lumber town of Nallen. 1997 portrait taken by Jurgen Lorenzen.
Mabel Moore

Quiltmaking is an art as well as a craft - women's work as well as pleasure. Creating a colorful bed cover from scraps leftover from home sewing projects or salvaged from worn-out garments recalls the self-sufficient spirit of resourceful pioneers; snuggling into the protection of a family-made quilt wraps us in memories of love and care.

Patchwork quilts and the practice of quiltmaking play a significant role in the lives of many West Virginia families. In 1990, a volunteer coalition of West Virginia women interested in quilt history - the West Virginia Heritage Quilt Search - began the work of preserving the history of quiltmaking in the Mountain State. They embarked on an ambitious documentation project in 1992, and traveled across the state, registering over 4,000 quilts made before 1940. They also met many of the women who had made these quilts, and learned from each of them.

In Fayette County, they met Mabel Moore, a veteran quiltmaker from Nallen. Mabel brought her "Quilt of Happy Memories," a Grandmother's Flower Garden pattern made in 1933-'34. As the women examined the quilt, Mabel recalls being questioned about her use of colored quilting thread.

Mabel relates, "I had a green lining on my quilt, and I bought green thread to quilt it with. One lady that was inspecting it mentioned that she didn't believe they had green thread back in the year that I made the quilt. And I told her, 'Oh yes, they did. I used to make my daughter's little dresses and I'd pick the thread that was the color of the material. And she's up in her 60's now.'"

During the years before World War II, Mabel found a variety of quality sewing supplies at the Wilderness Lumber Company store in Nallen. "We got them convinced that there used to be green thread and red, yellow, and all the other colors," Mabel says.

Following their documentation project, the Quilt Search group proceeded with an oral history project, sponsored by the West Virginia Humanities Council, in order to record the voices of many older West Virginia quiltmakers. One of these was Mabel Moore, whose 1993-'94 interviews were recorded and transcribed by Mary Nell Godbey, a founding member of the West Virginia Heritage Quilt Search. They met at Mabel's home in Nallen to discuss her life and her ideas about quilting.

You can read the rest of this article in the Spring 2001 issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.