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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Spend some time Down by the Old Mill Stream
Book edited by URI faculty wraps up Quilt Documentation Project

KINGSTON, R.I.-- June 28, 2000 -- It contains a full color photo of a quilt created by Samuel Slater's second wife. Another image shows a quilt made by the Women's Christian Temperance Union on Block Island, which contains the signatures of some the island's founding family members.

The 328-page book, Down by the Old Mill Stream: Quilts in Rhode Island, is the culmination of the eight-year Rhode Island Quilt Documentation Project, organized by University of Rhode Island Professor Linda Welters of Peace Dale, chair of the Department of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design, and her colleague, Margaret Ordonez, of Cumberland, URI associate professor of textiles.

Through detailed historical essays, 30 vignettes, 63 color plates and 94 black and white photos, Down by the Old Mill Stream makes Rhode Island history come alive through its families who came to power the mills.

"We didn't find any quilts with quahogs on them, but we did find a quilt during the documentation that survived the Hurricane of '38," said University of Rhode Island Professor, Linda Welters, co-editor of the just published book, Down by the Old Mill Stream: Quilts in Rhode Island.

The book, unveiled tonight at the URI Textiles Gallery, is the result of research done on nearly 900 quilts that were analyzed by URI textiles professors, students and volunteers since 1992 at communities throughout Rhode Island, from Woonsocket to Westerly and Coventry to Newport.

"Some people would come to us with their quilts in bags, and then when they learned about their significance, they would leave with them neatly folded, carrying them carefully," Ordonez said.

Welters and Ordonez edited the volume and also wrote numerous pieces. Other writers include Nancy Potter, URI English professor emerita; Cathy Cerny, former URI textiles professor emerita; Gail Mohanty, of Cumberland, director of the Slater Mill Historic Site in Pawtucket; Alda Kaye, former curator of the URI Historic Textile and Custome Collection, and Martin Bide, professor of textiles.

Tonight, URI honors the volunteers and quilt owners who made the documentation project and subsequent book possible. It also pays tribute to the Rhode Island Committee for the Humanities, which funded all phases of the project, the URI Foundation and Cranston Print Works.

Through their research, Welters and Ordonez found that the quilts express Rhode Island's unique social history. The book published by The Kent State University Press connects history, culture, and technology to quilts in Rhode Island and details developments in the textile industry that affected materials available to quilt makers.

The essays in Part I examine technological developments and textile production spinning, weaving, dyeing and printing as illustrated in quilt fabrics. Additional pieces link quilts to the state's historic, cultural and social heritage. "These essays reflect Rhode Island's relationship to the textile industry, and how it is depicted in the quilts," Welters said.

Shorter stories in Part 2 look at 30 quilts dating from the mid-18th century through 1935.

"Even if someone's not a quilt lover, they will enjoy the history of the textile industry in Rhode Island," Ordonez said. "Through the book, you'll get to know the families and people of Rhode Island. It's also a wonderful reference for those who want to learn about quilts from the 19th century," Ordonez added.

Other states had completed such projects, but Rhode Island lagged behind, Welters said.

The project was a collaborative effort from the beginning, involving faculty, staff, and students at URI, consultants, newspaper reporters, volunteers from local quilters' organizations, staff of public libraries, historical houses, museums and the general public.

There were three phases to the project: 1. registering, examining and photographing close to 900 quilts; 2. exhibitions at museums and historical societies, including those in Canada; 3. presentation and publication of the project's findings through lectures, articles and the book.

The book can be purchased at or by calling Bookmasters at 1-800-247-6553. Locally, people can purchase the book by calling Valerie Morgan at URI's Department of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design, 401-874-4574. All proceeds will go to the URI Foundation.


For Information: Linda Welters 401-874-4525,
Margaret Ordonez 401-874-5481,
Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116


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