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Collection Quilts and Quiltmaking in America, 1978 to 1996

Lura Stanley

Lura Brascombe Stanley was born on May 12, 1906, in Laurel Fork (Carroll County), Virginia. Her parents, James P. and Mary Ruth Dickerson Brascombe, were farmers, and the family raised its own food and made much of its own clothing. Lura's mother had a loom and wove blankets, some of which Lura still owned at the time of the interview in 1978. Lura Stanley said she "loved beautiful quilts even when I was a little girl, and I wanted to make one." Her mother gave her some scraps to piece for a quilt and then quilted it for her after Lura completed the top.

Lura Stanley's ambition was to be a teacher. She started teaching in local schools when she was eighteen years old, at a time when teachers were not required to have a college degree. She left teaching when she married Charles J. Stanley. During World War II there was a shortage of teachers (probably because of the large number of women working in factories), and, although she still had small children at home, Mrs. Stanley agreed to return to teaching at that time. She then attended Radford College, earned a B.S. degree in 1957, and taught until her retirement in 1971.

After her marriage Lura Stanley made quilts for her family to use. She stopped quilting during the years when she was teaching and attending college, but she did a lot of knitting during that time. After retirement she resumed quiltmaking, inspired by "seeing all these beautiful quilts in the magazines and at the shops." She was not interested in selling her quilts. "There's too much time and effort put in a quilt for me to sell . . . I don't think people would pay me what I'd have to have for my quilts."

Lura Stanley pieced most of her quilts by hand because she felt that it enabled her to match her seams more accurately. At the time of the interview she was living alone and considered quiltmaking a pleasant pastime. She had pieced and quilted four quilts the previous year. "I put right much quilting on my quilts, so it takes a while. . . I have ten grandchildren, and I hope to give each one a quilt, if I live long enough to make them. . . I have about five more to go." She hoped that the people who received her quilts would enjoy using them but would also take care of them so that they will last. "Use but not abuse," she said.

Mrs. Stanley acquired some of her piecework patterns from friends and some from quilt books and magazines, and she had also ordered patterns from the Mountain Mist company. Some of her favorite patterns included the "Turkey Track," the "Dresden Plate," the "Lone Star," and the "Double Wedding Ring." For most quilts, she did not have to order the pattern because she could draft her own templates after looking at a picture of the block. She also found ideas for quilting designs in books, and sometimes she worked out a quilting design to suit a particular quilt top.

Lura Stanley quilted during the wintertime. "I like to garden and travel . . . I'm an outdoors person. And so I don't quilt in the summertime. Winter, when you have to stay in, when the roads are bad and the weather's bad. That's when I do my quilting . . . I sometimes quilt all day long . . . But it gets you in between your shoulders, and I have arthritis."

Mrs. Stanley quilted using an oblong hoop instead of a traditional frame. She liked the hoop because it was portable and because she could turn and twist it, making it easier to do fancy quilting designs such as feather wreaths. She marked her quilting lines lightly in pencil covering them with the quilting stitches.

After interviewing Mrs. Stanley, the fieldworkers returned to her house the following day and photographed her quilts outdoors. During that visit, Gerri Johnson continued to record Mrs. Stanley's comments about the quilts she had made, inherited, or purchased at auction. The occasion offered Mrs. Stanley an unusual opportunity to see her quilts from a distance, and the interview revealed her pride and delight in the experience. "I have an idea. I think I'll stretch a line down here in my yard and put up a for-sale sign, and price these out of reason, and have people coming by to see them. I didn't know they were so pretty!"

"I make quilts for the beauty, and not for the service," Mrs. Stanley said. "I just appreciate beautiful quilts, I do, really. When you appreciate something, you want to possess some of it . . . Possession is a whole lot, isn't it, in life? Possessing things? I believe it is with me."

by Laurel Horton, July 1999

Photographs and Sound Recordings Featuring Lura Stanley