Friendship Quilt

July, 2019

Friendship Quilt

Mary Elizabeth Shelby
quilt with buttons

1940
Kansas City, Missouri 
Hand-stitched; cotton, buttons 
Donated in memory of Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Shelby by the William J. Shelby family, 2014.022.0001

According to her family, Mary Shelby’s fascination with buttons began after seeing her mother’s button box. As her own collection grew, along with an interest in quiltmaking and design, Shelby imagined a quilt made entirely of buttons. Using 11,923 flat buttons attached to what was likely a white tablecloth with a lace trim, she adapted a Friendship Quilt pattern published in the Kansas City Star in 1938.

The result is staggering. Shelby’s quilt placed fourth in a novelty quilt contest at the Missouri State Fair and appeared in numerous venues through the years. It also tips the scales weighing more than 40 pounds.

See also, in the related photograph, a number of Shelby’s small button projects.

This quilt is featured in "Whimsy" (on display in the Peg Coryell Gallery June 21-November 30, 2019).