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mthe mary schafer collection: a legacy of quilt history

 

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Mary Schafer’s friendship with Betty Harriman

One of Mary’s strongest friendships to grow out of the Round Robin exchanges was with Betty Harriman of Bunceton, Missouri who was introduced to Mary through Barbara Bannister, a mutual friend.  Mary and Betty shared many of the same tastes in quilt patterns as well as an interest in history.   They never met in person but their friendship flourished first through an exchange of letters and later through regular telephone conversations.  The pair frequently would work on the same design, each creating their own interpretation of a pattern.  Following Betty’s death in 1971, Mary purchased Betty’s unfinished quilts from the family.  Bringing Betty’s projects to completion continued Mary’s tie to her friend.

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Photo of Flowering Almond quilt  

Flowering Almond Quilt
Betty Harriman (1890 -1971), piecer; Mary Schafer (b. 1910), quilter
1968-1971
Bunceton, Cooper County, Missouri and Flushing, Genesee County, Michigan
Cotton with polyester batting
83” x 96”
MSUM# 1998.53.35

After the death of her friend Betty, Mary took on the task of completing many of Betty’s unfinished tops.  This appliqué design, a popular motif from the mid-19th century, was one of Betty’s favorites.  Part of the challenge posed to Mary as she undertook the finishing of Betty’s work was trying to complete the quilts in a manner that Betty herself would have selected.  Mary has completed at least sixteen of Betty’s quilts.

     
Photo of Lee's Rose and Buds quilt  

Lee’s Rose and Buds
Betty Harriman, piecer, finishing by Mary Schafer
1969-1972
Virginia and Flushing, Genesee County, Michigan
Cotton with polyester batting
84 x 101
MSUM# 1998:53.50

When Betty died, both women were working on their own Lee’s Rose and Buds.   Betty’s notes stated that the pattern was from a quilt “made in 1852 (or 1854) by Mother and Grandmother or Cousin Mamie Lee.  Mamie Lee was born [in] 1860, the night Abraham Lincoln was elected president…Quilt now owned by Robert E. Lee, son of Mamie Lee. This old quilt is in perfect condition and very beautiful.”  Betty was a descendent of Robert E. Lee, this connection made the choice of pattern even more meaningful to her.  When Mary received the quilt from the Harriman estate, it was partially marked for quilting.

     
Photo of Lee's Rose and Buds quilt  

Lee’s Rose and Buds
Mary Schafer
c. 1972
Flushing, Genesee County, Michigan
Cotton with Polyester Batting
81 x 100
MSUM# 1998:53.49

Although both women began their quilts from the same pattern, they each handled the pattern in their own unique way.  Mary used bolder colors and created her own quilting designs.  Mary also brought one of her signature borders to the quilt.

     
Photo of Pennsylvania Dutch Flower Garden quilt  

Pennsylvania Dutch Flower Garden
Mary Schafer and Betty Harriman
1973
Bunceton, Cooper County, Missouri and Flushing, Genesee County, Michigan
Cotton with polyester
81 x 103
MSUM# 1998:53.73

Betty and Mary both contributed blocks to this quilt.  The pattern is from Country Gentlemen magazine, a source of mail order patterns in the 1930s.  The border is Mary’s original contribution.  Mary had her neighbors sign the quilt blocks.

     
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