Traditions are passed down from generation-to-generation, and for those who grew up in Appalachian culture, those traditions can be found in local art, food, music and more. The 4th Avenue Gallery in Marlinton is one of many places in Pocahontas County where traditional art forms can be found, and for local quilter Jane Beverage, her craft began out of necessity.
“Back then, making quilts was a way of life,” she explained. “We didn’t have centralized heating, so in order to stay warm at night, we had to have a lot of quilts to help keep the beds warm. My family raised sheep, so we would often use carded wool as the batting in our quilts. Wool shrinks when you wash it, but when you’re using it for a normal quilt, that doesn’t matter.”
Quilting has since become a favored pastime for Beverage, and she enjoys creating quilts, throws and more – of all colors, shapes and sizes.
When it comes to determining each quilt’s design, Beverage looks to her chosen fabrics, as well as quilt trails and covered bridges, to guide her way. Once she has chosen a primary fabric to work with, Beverage adds to the piece using corresponding colors and patterns. If working on a commission, Beverage will often start with her [client/customer’s] suggestion and go from there.
After enough fabric has been collected, Beverage begins a process of eliminating colored and patterned pieces that do the least for the quilt. Each piece is then squared using a trusty book filled with quilting squares of different shapes and sizes. Once the sizing is complete, Beverage begins building her quilts.
“I used to stitch by hand,” she explained, “but it just got to the point where that took too much of my time. It would take me all winter to complete a regular-sized quilt if I did it by hand.”
Nowadays, Beverage utilizes the help of neighbor Amy McGrew and her quilting machine for her larger projects – such as bed runners, quilts, throws and wall hangings. According to Beverage, she keeps her friend busy.
For smaller projects, Beverage works from home on her sewing machine and recycles any unused fabric into placements, pot holders and table runners.
“The price of fabric has gone up tremendously in the past few years,” she commented, “so I try to use every inch of fabric that I can. You used to be able to a yard for $3, but nowadays, the average cost for a yard of fabric runs $10 to $13.”
Inflation hasn’t deterred Beverage, and she still enjoys stopping at quilt shops every now and then to look around.
Beverage began sewing when she was a child after years of watching her mother and grandmother, and she carried the family tradition with her into marriage. As it turned out, her husband’s family was a family of quilters – crocheters, knitters, weavers and yarn spinners – and in the first year of her marriage, she was invited to join them as they quilted during the winter.
“Quilting was a hobby,” she added, “but it was something we all enjoyed, and we learned from one another. Everyone inspired everyone else, and we were able to build on one another.”
Beverage has since branched out into guilds and co-ops, where she continues to find the same friendship and inspiration she had when she first quilted with her in-laws.
Working in the gallery has given Beverage a similar experience, as well.
“It’s a little exciting to have someone come in and buy your things,” she said. “It gives you a chance to meet people, be with people and talk with people. After being in the school system with children for thirty years, it’s a nice change.”
Beverage first joined the Pocahontas County Artisan Co-op after speaking with Lucy Rittenhouse. Impacted by her enthusiasm, she began selling her work at the Green Bank Gallery, then became a member of the Pocahontas County Artisan Co-op in 2011 at the encouragement of Brenda Harmon.
“It’s been a good part of my life,” Beverage said, “and I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s great that we have a place the artists in our county can bring their art and sell it, get the exposure of the art that’s in our county. There’s a lot more art out there that I’d love to see come in.”
The Pocahontas County Artisan Co-op operates out of the 4th Avenue Gallery – located at 721 Fourth Avenue in Marlinton – and is open Wednesday through Monday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The gallery can be reached at 304-799-2550.
Fourth in a series highlighting artists in the county.