1905 Bonnie Blevins's Crazy-patch Parlor Throw

A town, “Bristol, Tennessee,” and a date, “Jan. 4, 1905,” were prominently embroidered on the parlor throw that Bonnie Blevins made for her family. Donated by her daughter, Blanche Blevins, in 1956, it is an example of the fancy needlework popular in the late 19th century.
Twelve 19-inch crazy-patch and embroidered blocks were assembled for this parlor throw. It has no lining, just a rayon seam binding added at a later date, basted to the front edges. The embroidery motifs (butterflies, birds, animals, etc.) are typical of crazy patchwork, but would appear to be freely drawn rather than from a pattern. The embellishments were done with silk thread utilizing feather, stem, detached chain, French knot, coral knot, satin and buttonhole stitches. Several embroidered inscriptions are present: “I slept and dreamed / that life was beauty / I awoke and found / that life was duty.” It is from a poem by Ellen Sturgis Hooper (1812-1848), a transcendentalist poet who published in The Dial and whose poems appeared in anthologies. Lines from poetry, probably of special personal significance, were frequently added to needlework.
Four blocks of this parlor throw may have been specifically designed by Bonnie to acknowledge her family. The block containing the date and place also contained an embroidered name “Robt.” and the inscription “Think of me.” Robert was Bonnie’s husband, whom she married in 1892. A second block has the name “Fred” and “In God we trust” embroidered on the crazy-patches. Fred Foster was Bonnie’s eldest son, born in 1892. A third block has the embroidered inscription, “God bless our home,” and the name “Worth.” Omar Worth was Bonnie’s second son born in 1896. The fourth block contains an owl with the inscription “Whoo whoo.” It also has a small embroidered name, “Bonnie.” Another patch in the same block has a swan, a child’s head, heart, and the name “Blanche” embroidered on it. Blanche was Bonnie’s third child, born in 1898. The motifs that were used on each of the blocks may have held meaning for that person. Bonnie’s parlor throw was a personal record of her family.
Geneva Bonville Foster was born in 1865 or 1866, probably in North Carolina. Known as Bonnie, she married Robert Houston Blevins in 1892. They had three children as noted above, and for a time lived in Tazewell County, Va., as well as Bristol, Tenn. It was in Bristol, Virginia, (Bristol lies on the border of Tennessee and Virginia) that Bonnie died at age 43 in February 1909. She and her family are memorialized on the parlor throw that is now part of the Collection as an example of crazy-patchwork.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Blevins, Geneva Bonville Foster
Physical Description
fabric, silk, velvet, satin, ribbon, cotton (overall material)
thread, silk, cotton (overall material)
overall: 76 in x 57 in; 192 cm x 144 cm
place made
United States: Tennessee, Bristol
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Family & Social Life
Domestic Furnishings
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Miss Blanche Cleo Blevins
Additional Media

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