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Reba’s quilt’s secret back side.

This story begins on Sept. 17, 1941 when a young couple spoke their wedding vows to each other. Virgil and Christine Curry Shell began their new life in the foothills of Pine Mountain and Black Mountain near Harlan, Kentucky. Virgil earned his living as a coal miner and Christine stayed home to tend the vegetable and flower gardens and sew for the family. Together they reared two daughters.

After Virgil retired from working the mines, he helped Christine at home. Together they would piece quilt tops made mostly of Virgil’s shirts and Christine’s dress making scraps. One of the tops made up of squares they gifted to their daughter Reba, a coal miner’s daughter.

Reba’s story: Reba married Donald McAfee and together they raised their family. They lived through many joys and sorrows. She lost Don after 50 years of marriage. Time and hard work have taken their toll on Reba, but she keeps going.

Reba asked her good friend Carol Sorg to take her parent’s quilt top and complete it. Since the front was comprised of just squares it was going to be a very long and tedious process to quilt it. Carol decided rather than quilt the squares to use the back as a canvas to quilt images from Reba’s life story on the back. Never did she dream that it would take her three years to complete it.

Carol quilted an image of the church where Don and Reba were married. The cross on the left symbolizes the first 25 years together; the cross on the right represents their 50 years of marriage. The butterflies and flowers symbolize the flowers Reba can no longer plant and tend. Reba never had a picket fence to protect her flower beds from critters, so Carol quilted her a picket fence to keep them out.

Carol kept the creation of the quilt a secret from Reba. She gleaned the family information from Reba’s daughter Bettye Jean and swore her to secrecy. Carol and her husband made a surprise visit to Reba on a Sunday afternoon. Carol took the quilt, laid it out on the bed square side up and started reading Reba’s parent’s information and when she got to the “Reba’s Story” portion Carol and her husband flipped the quilt over so she could view the “secret side”. Bettye Jean was present on Skype and both she and her mother had tears in their eyes and rolling down their face over what Carol had created as a labor of love.

Carol’s Story: “This secret quilt was a joy to make for Reba. Most of all I want her to know how much I love her: my best friend. God Bless you!”

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Lois Levihn

She is the author of the "Around the Frame" quilting column. She is a graduate of Wayne HS. Quilts have always been important to her, she loves the stories surrounding them, the techniques used in making them, & restoring them. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer