Lenice Bacon’s fascination with quilts and quilt lore began during her childhood in Tennessee. She was intrigued by the patterns and colors of her family’s quilts, which seemed to speak to her of stories from another time and place. She made her first quilt in 1926, a Bride’s Quilt in a Rose of Sharon pattern, for her daughter. In 1930 a second quilt was made in a traditional Randolph family pattern for her son. These were the only two quilts from her hand. She made the tops, then sent them to expert quilters for the quilting.
Lenice worked on her quilts at her sewing circle meetings. The other members wanted to know more about her quilts and their history, launching her on a career as a lecturer. It was her premise that “that the making of quilts was the most universal of all the folk arts in early America, appealing to women everywhere and in all walks of life.” She presented at least fifty-five lectures in sixteen states. She dressed in colonial costume and used her collection of quilts and quilt blocks as visual aids
In 1973, when she was seventy-eight years old, Lenice’s book on quilt history, American Patchwork Quilts, was published. The book jacket described it as “a concise and knowledgeable history… (it) gives sound advice on buying, collecting, caring for and repairing old quilts.” The publication of her book coincided with an upsurge in interst in quilts following the landmark exhibit at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York City and leading up to the United States bicentennial celebration.
Lenice died in May of 1978.
Photo by Bradford Bachrach, courtesy of Joyce Gross
“There surely is a quilt revival today and perhaps with it a revival of concern for tradition and craftsmanship and the special beauty of handmade things.”
American Patchwork Quilts (1973), p.24