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The Famous Cherokee Quilts

When my husband and I met in 1961, I met many people from Cherokee, in fact we visited Abaco on an August Monday Mail Boat Excursion. It was then that I first learned about the “Cherokee Quilt”, and we received one of them as a wedding gift and my grandchildren are still using it.

At that time they were not made like today’s quilts, but were like a duvae or a comforter (and lots of stuffing). Their quilts were made by a small group of local ladies as a way to give a memorable wedding gift or to someone having a baby in the family. They soon found out that they could be sold to raise funds for someone in need or for a community project. Women of that era were taught various types of handiwork either in school or through the Girl Guides and even at the church’s Women’s League.

Before the women started making the over-stuffed quilts, they had simply covered used blankets that had seen better days as a means of being frugal or thrifty as money was scarce to the island women during the early 20th century. Sometimes they made patchwork quilt toppings, first from whatever material scraps they had on hand or could salvage from a torn piece of clothing. Because of our warm climate and the fact there was no need for a quilt to keep you warm, these patchwork tops were often just utilized as covers on a bed like a bedspread.

Later, the patchwork took on a consistent design, recognized by modern-day quilters as the “Ohio Star”, also possibly as a Cherokee trademark to differentiate their quilts from those made in other settlements. For years this particular design dominated the Cherokee-made quilts, but also because this was something the local quilters were, of course, most familiar with.

As far back as our first Cherokee Day in January 1986 when the church ladies made a special homemade quilt that was auctioned off and raised $1,800.00 it was obvious there was a demand for the Cherokee Quilt. They were trying to raise funds to do some repair work on The Cherokee Methodist Church which had been hit by lightning. Later when The Cherokee Ladies Saturday Afternoon Quilting Group started donating quilts they were given as raffle prizes, but more often put up for bid at an open auction the day of the function to realize a higher price.

The community of Cherokee Sound put on a Quilting Fair on Whit Monday in June of 1914 at the W. W. Sands Community Center. It was a day of fun, games and food, outside in the schoolyard with an exhibition of quilts and other handwork inside.

Some local women from The Cherokee Ladies Saturday Afternoon Quilting Group under the tutelage and direction of Mrs. Joanne Sturrup provided two quilts, one for a raffle (won by Mrs. Jennifer Hudson) and one to be sold (to a second home owner from Treasure Cay). The fair raised $l,002.00 which was donated to the Cherokee Clinic under construction at that time.

This group has been in existence since 2007 giving out 15 quilts which they have been donating to various fund raisers and putting together prayer quilts for Epworth Methodist Chapel (formerly The Cherokee Methodist Church).

There have been ten to fifteen ladies who have volunteered their assistance in helping the group over the years, local mothers and daughters, second-home owners and sometimes just a foreign visiting quilter who had heard about the group and they wanted to become a part of this world-wide sisterhood.

However, there are many excellent gentlemen quilters as well, just none in Cherokee.

Written to honour past Cherokee Quilters: Geraldine Albury, Katie Bethel, Una Albury, Kathleen Pinder, Vernell Sawyer, Mable Sawyer, Rosa Sawyer, Hattie Albury, Elsie Sands, Lula Sawyer

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