Natchez quilter has works published in new ‘Mississippi Quilts’ book

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 23, 2001

At 90, Lavada Brewer has not lost her passion for quilting. Ask her about the art she has practiced for nearly eight decades and her face lights up.

&uot;I’d have one going right now if I hadn’t just had an operation on my eyes,&uot; she said. &uot;You’ll see. I’ll have one up on the rack in two weeks.&uot;

Recent eye surgery precludes her quilting for now, but on Thursday she had plenty of good vision to admire how beautiful three of her works appear in the new University Press of Mississippi book, &uot;Mississippi Quilts,&uot; by Mary Elizabeth Johnson, with photographs by J.D. Schwalm.

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Brewer is the only quilter to have three of her works included in the book. They are titled &uot;Cherries,&uot; &uot;Iris Appliques&uot; and &uot;Dogwood.&uot;

&uot;They look so pretty,&uot; she said, admiring the photographs of her quilts, these all made in the 1940s.

&uot;I chose the colors,&uot; she said proudly.

As she warmed to the conversation, Brewer held up her right hand, positioning her fingers as if holding a needle. As she talked, she moved her hand rhythmically to demonstrate how she worked when quilting.

She has lost count of how many quilts she has completed since she began making them as a young girl. Her grandmother was the master in the family, she said. Her mother also was a fine quilter. Brewer learned from both of them, she said.

&uot;I started as just a little-bitty girl,&uot; she said. She liked making the pieces for the quilts, and she liked putting them together. The three chosen for the book are appliqued rather than pieced, however.

The old-fashioned quilt frame hangs in her bedroom, where it will be lowered to the right level when she is ready to make the next quilt.

Brewer was born Nov. 27, 1910. She grew up in Tylertown, Miss., but moved to Natchez some 60 years ago, she said.

She continued quilting throughout her life quite simply because she enjoyed it. &uot;I’d sell some and I’d give some away,&uot; she said. &uot;I’d see something I liked and I’d do it.&uot;

The three chosen for the book are all hand quilted in fine stitches. She pulled out one to show, the &uot;Cherries,&uot; featured on page 147.

Asked whether she considered herself an artist, she laughed in reply.

&uot;I think I’m just a plain old country gal,&uot; she said. &uot;I do this because I enjoy it.&uot;

The neat, precise stitches on her quilts speak otherwise, of art and of craft. As author Johnson says in the book, Brewer is &uot;gifted with the needle.&uot;

Sadly, Brewer has no daughters to whom she could pass the art. She has, however, taught a granddaughter to quilt. &uot;I don’t know how much she’s doing it,&uot; she said.

For all the years she has quilted, Brewer has found the pastime to be satisfying in many ways, including providing unique presents to give friends and family.

&uot;When you’re doing it, you have nothing else on your mind, and you’re doing something that is worth something to somebody.&uot;

She held out her hands, showing knuckles slightly swollen. She exercised her fingers, opening and closing a fist, as if to show that a little arthritis would not slow her down. &uot;I have beaucoup work to do,&uot; she said, beaming in anticipation as she shared the thought.