Rising Sun

By: Susan Price Miller
Louisville, Kentucky

Lula Roberts was only sixteen years old in 1894 when she decided to make a quilt for her brother’s marriage. With help from her mother, she deftly hand stitched curved seams to make diamonds, then joined them into stars with a complete circle in the center. The Roberts family farmed near Riceville, a tiny community in South Mississippi. In spite of her rural isolation, Lula’s work has elements of other late nineteenth-century quilts in the state, particularly the solid colors, circular motif, triple sashing, and borders as shown in Mississippi Quilts by Mary Elizabeth Johnson. I was unable to find a similar quilt or a source for the pattern that Lula called Rising Sun.

Barbara Brackman’s blog about Southern quilts attributes their solid colors to the textile mills that moved from the North to the South after the Civil War. According to the Encyclopedia of Mississippi History (1907), the Mississippi Mills in Wesson, forty miles from Riceville, manufactured more wool and cotton materials than any other factory in the south. Their mercerized cotton dress fabric was known as “Mississippi Silk” and probably influenced regional quiltmakers.

Lula Roberts Turner was my grandmother. Since the new Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson, Mississippi now has her Rising Sun quilt, I made this three to four scaled wall hanging as a keepsake for my family. As I struggled to make all the diamonds the same size, match seams to make an even circle, and deal with the inset seams, I felt a deeper sense of my connection to my grandmother and the work of her hands.