Trail Magic? Hidden Gem? Probably Both.


Herringbone table runner created by my mother.

Ever heard of “trail magic?” In hiking, it’s something akin to a serendipitous blessing received (sometimes anonymously) when one expects it least and needs it most.

A “hidden gem” is something wonderful that is hidden (or unknown) prior to unexpected discovery,

The Historic Smithville Park in South Jersey is one of those hidden gems.  And the quilt exhibit we saw there last weekend was the icing on the cake (er, gem; but you get the idea).

My husband and I were out taking a ride with my Mother In-Law, just (sorta) looking for Historic Smithville Park.  If we couldn’t find it, no harm, no foul; we were just out enjoying the great weather.

The park is listed on the Burlington County, NJ, Parks web page. They provided directions to the park, but we opted to use our GPS to find it.  I could not for the life of me get my navigation system to find the location, so I was beginning to wonder if we’d ever find it.

Well, we did find it. And what a hidden gem.

It’s a lovely little park (well, not too little: it’s 312 acres along Rancocas  Creek includes a “floating trail” over the 22-acre Smithville Lake.  The park also includes restored workers’ homes from the 19th Century Smithville Industrial Village and well as the mansion belonging to village founder H.B. Smith.

And here’s the trail magic:  It so happened that there was an ongoing exhibit (it was to end the following weekend!) at one of the restored workers’ homes.  This newly renovated “Workers House Gallery” was being inaugurated with a quilt exhibit.  “[The exhibit] contains quilts made, used, and still owned by 6 succeeding generations of the same Burlington County family. The quilts are similar to what might have been found in homes throughout the village of Smithville.” [Source: exhibit brochure/Board of Chosen Freeholders, Burlington County, NJ.]  (Here is a news report about the exhibit.)

One of the ladies who made 6 of the quilts on exhibit showed us around.  (Thank you, Dorothy, for allowing me to take pictures and for the wonderful tour of your family’s collection.)

I was so excited to see these quilts.  My mother made patchwork scrap quilts to give as gifts, to donate to charities such as Care Wear and their clients; and to use at home. I was tickled to see one of the many patterns my mother used (narrow strips sewn together) in one of the quilts.  My mom used this technique in lap robes for Senior Citizens as well as in table runners and other small items.  I’m looking at a table runner right now that used that technique.

Check out the photos of the quilts on exhibit.  (Please don’t miss Jack’s quilt that he designed at age 6!)

The quilts speak of history and the lives of the women who made them. Most of them are not the examples of outstanding artistry one find in a typical quilt show. They are not dazzling showpieces; they are workhorses made – and used – by one local family.  Although some of them were intended as precious heirlooms, others are quilts made by a child learning to sew under protest, hardworking bedclothes made from craps during an era when waste was unthinkable, gifts to welcome new babies, art projects made by a little boy with his loving grandmother, and quilts made as a created outlet by women with busy lives and demanding careers.  — Source: exhibit brochure.

The Quilts:

(l) Pattern: Flying geese. 1880.
(r) Pattern: Pineapple (a log cabin variation)

Larger view of Pineapple pattern quilt.

Pattern: Sampler. 1980.

(l) Pattern: Square blocks. 2011.
(c) The center panels of this quilt are from a cloth story book. 2005.
(r) Pattern: Peony. 1997.

Quilt by 6-year-old Jack. Jack laid out the rows, which were then stitched by his grandmother Dorothy.
Pattern: Random rows. 2012.

(l) Pattern: Seven stars. 1930.
(c) Pattern: Pinwheels. 1930.
(r) Pattern: Crazy quilt. 1880.

(top) Pattern: Flying Gees, log cabin corner squares. 1990.
(bottom) Pattern: Rose of Sharon with scalloped border. 1930.

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One response to “Trail Magic? Hidden Gem? Probably Both.

  1. Pingback: You Are Never Wasting Time « SeeBee Sez

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