The Hopkinton Town Library Presents:

The Contoocook Village Quilt

A Digital Library
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This essay was written by Joan Holmes after the quilt's completion.

Read about the quilters as a group.

In 1973 a pictorial quilt was made by the "Friends" group of the Hopkinton Village Library. The quilt was started as a money-making project, and the group planned to raffle it. As the quilt grew, the women became so attached to it they didn't want to see it sold, and decided to have postcards made of it instead. They kept their quilt to hang in their library.

Those of us from Contoocook Village who saw it were so taken with the beauty of their quilt that, with encouragement from the Hopkinton women, we decided to make one of our own village.

In October of 1973 at a meeting of the Bates Library "Friends," it was decided to put a notice in the library about such a project to see how much interest there might be. Members of the Bates group signed up and women in the community that we thought might be interested were contacted. Word about the idea began to get around and interest was so great that we had to stop the size of the quilt at forty-two squares.

Also in October a group of us attended a slide program presented by the Hopkinton women about their quilt and left that evening with much helpful advice from their group. Our feelings of enthusiasm were mixed with doubts about our ability to accomplish such an undertaking.

In November of 1973 we met for the first time as a group at the Bates Library to plan our quilt. The women were asked to bring lists of places they would like to see on the quilt, and a lively discussion developed as we made our decisions.

First, we decided to show places now in existence on the quilt, with three expectations. It would be up to the individual making the square whether she chose to portray her subject as it looked in the present or as it had in the past. Those buildings to be shown which are not now in existence were the Old Kingsbury and Davis Plant, to represent the industries in the village, and the old high school, to represent the schools of the village.

The fountain was mentioned over and over as a subject for the quilt and was the third exception. When we planned the assembly of the squares, the fountain was placed in the center of the quilt and, as much as possible, the village shown around it as it actually is.

By process of elimination we chose the subjects for the quilt. We wanted our quilt to portray some of our activities as a small town, and also to represent those people who serve us every day-our doctor, policemen, and firemen. Each woman chose to square she wanted to do and each was given a piece of white cloth and paper for her sketches. (Those who were unable to attend were called and chose their squares from those left.)

A very simple demonstration of applied appliqué  was closely observed by everyone, as most of the group had never done anything in appliqué before.

We met once more in November to compare sketches and to enable the women who needed help to sign up with one of our four artists. We then called a halt in our activities until after the holidays.

On January 7, 1974 we met at the Community Center for a casserole supper. This was one of our most colorful meetings. After a supper by candlelight, every quilter brought out her box of scraps brought for mutual exchange by all the workers on the quilt. With her sketch in hand each woman went from table to table, each strewn with gay scraps of cloth, to choose just the right colors for her own creation. Two of the women had their squares started and everyone paid close attention as they explained what they had done.

At this meeting it was decided to meet twice a month for fun and inspiration. Not a lot of work was accomplished at these meetings, for appliqué is painstaking and requires close attention on the part of the worker. The meetings were mostly a wonderful time to sympathize with each others problems, to get new ideas, and to encourage each other when things looked hopeless.

We met again in January in the cafeteria at the fiberglass plant. It seemed that from then on through a rather cheerless winter with the energy crisis upon us, that the quilt warmed much of the town. Those of us doing a square each had innumerable people interested and involved in helping us. Our husbands took a great interest and all of our children. Friends sent materials and pictures and lent advice and encouragement. In small groups and large throughout the winter evenings needles too tiny stitches, patiently creating pictures in cloth.

It was decided that each woman should do a short history of her square and that drew many other people to the quilt. Older people who could remember dates and events were a wonderful help. Conversations in the bank, A & P, post office or library, wherever people met, would sometimes seem very strange to the eavesdropper. "I have ripped out my rock three times"; "Have you seen her cow's tail"; or "Wait until you try to do your windows". We viewed our surroundings with a new awareness and details never noticed before came to our attention.

By the first of February the first squares were done. We began hanging them in the library and then in the bank so that each square could be appreciated before it was sewn on the quilt. In February we met twice-at Ruth Blanchard's home and at the home of Barbara Smith. We were pleased to see at the second meeting in February that almost half of the squares were done.

On March 5 we met at the home of Eveline Houston, where each square that was complete was photographed, and we assembled the squares on a large sheet to see how they looked together. Some of our husbands came to this meeting to join in the fun and sociability of the evening. All of the meetings during the winter were all well attended.

It should be mentioned here that the deadline for our quilt squares was April 1, and every square was done. The spirit of cooperation among the forty-four women working on the quilt was truly inspiring, and we all had a mutual feeling of accomplishment as we met the deadline.

As we had the arrangement of the quilt planned and more than half of the squares were done, we decided to start putting the quilt together well before April 1. On March 7 we moved into the family room at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Woodbury Roberts. This room was perfect for us as it had its own entrance and we could come and go without disturbing the household. For five weeks as we worked to put our quilt together, Ginny Roberts welcomed us with a cheery fire in the fireplace on cold March mornings and graciously put up with people coming and going to work on or just to visit the quilt.

We had high hopes of completing our quilt for National Library Week, which started April 21, and we took the last stitches on the quilt on April 15. That evening the quilt frame was assembled and a trial hanging was staged at the home of Mrs. Robert Smith.

On April 19, 1974 at the Maple Street School, we unveiled our quilt and presented it for the first time to the quilters, their families and invited guests. A large group attended, refreshments were served, and an evening of mutual admiration was enjoyed by all.

The quilt was hung for display in Bates Library for National Library Week where it attracted many admirers. The Friends of the Bates Library presented a display of old and new quilts at the same time, making Library Week most successful.

We met for the last time on May 14 at the Maple Street School where again we enjoyed a casserole supper together. A slide program was presented to the quilters showing each square on the quilt, the assembly of the quilt and the unveiling party.

As so many of the women wanted a picture of the quilt as a keepsake, we decided to have the quilt photographed and colored prints made for their enjoyment.

We left the last meeting with some regrets, as we had all made new friends and had enjoyed our association as we worked together. Everyone left with a special feeling of pride in having been a part of the "Contoocook Village Quilt."

About the quilters as a group

As a group we ranged in age from silver-hared ladies to two young people aged fifteen. Among us were schoolteachers, businesswomen, artists, a nurse and young mothers. Many of the women worked outside of their homes.

We were busy women who took up the quilt project for the sheer fun of it. It was one thing we were all doing because we wanted to, fitting it in among the many things we had to to.

Some of us were long time residents of the town, quite a few were new the the community. We met people we would not have otherwise known, and our newcomers felt part of the town more quickly as they took part in the creation of the quilt.

Most of us had never done anything even remotely resembling applied appliqué, some had hardly held a needle before.

All of us took a great interest in each other's work, and the spirit of cooperation was wonderful. As we learned we shared our experiences and many new friendships developed.

Fourteen members of the group were Friends of the Bates Library, the rest were drawn from the community.

This resume of the quilt was put together to the best of my ability in July of 1974.

Already we have forgotten some of the things about the quilt, but none of us will ever forget the experience of making it.

Joan Holmes

Chairperson
Contoocook Village Quilt