The Shenandoah Valley has long been home to some of the country’s finest quilters. Among those who have contributed to the quilting tradition of the region are the Mennonites, who established their first community in the Shenandoah Valley about 1727, and were well settled in the region by the 1780s. Today the Mennonites remain a thriving close-knit culture in the Valley, maintaining traditional customs associated with work, travel, dress, and worship. Mary Beery has for many years been regarded both within and outside the Mennonite community as one of the most gifted quilters of her generation. Quilters generally prefer to work in small groups or “quilting bees,” so Mary took on two apprentices: her niece Mollie Beery and Virginia Quilt Museum Director, Joan Knight.
I was taking a quilting class at a local fabric store and the teacher couldn’t make it. So they asked Aunt Mary to come in and teach. When I showed her my quilt block she was surprised at how bad it was. Before I started quilting with her, she said, “You WILL learn this,” and I said, “Well, I don’t know if you know me that well, Aunt Mary!” She still said, “Yes, you will!”