Monday, June 16, 2014

This informative letter was written by the President of the Chewelah Arts Guild, as a welcome for our 15th Annual Quilt Show, "Seasons in Stitches."

Dear Quilt Show Visitor,

Welcome to the 15th Annual Chewelah Quilt Show.

As you enjoy this year's quilt show take a moment to consider why you like quilts. Is it the kaleidoscope of colors, the creativity, the variety of fabric and design, the detailed craftsmanship, or the pride in your friend's talents? Or are you here getting ideas and inspirations for your own next years quilts?

It may be interesting to consider the history of quilts and quilting which probably is influencing your excitement today. If you web search "history of quilts" you find a variety of contradictory and unsubstantiated historical information. The earliest historical reference seems to be from the Crusade (12th century) when much needed quilted padding was worn under heavy body armory. Quilt making always seemed to spike during war efforts, and was a source of artist expression with the recovery projects coming out of the Great Depression. Quilting has always had a strong and enduring tradition within the Amish communities.

A current popular read, The Inventions of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd references quilts made by slaves in the United States as an important form of communication. Woven into this historical novel are the story quilts of Harriet Powers (see also Stitching Stars: The Story Quilts of Harriet Powers, by Mary Lyons). These story quilts are interesting to see, knowing that the slaves were not allowed to learn to read and write, and that this was one way to express their personal stories.

Some abolitionists were active in the Underground Railroad helping runaway slaves get to safety. There are stories that certain quilts were used as signals to help the slaves in their flight to freedom. The idea that a log cabin quilt would be hung on the line of a safe house was one. More recent stories tell of certain quilts being used to tell the slaves what they needed to do to get to safety. This all sounds quite romantic but historians are divided on the theory and legend. But we do know that a valiant effort was made by both whites and free slaves to help these slaves to their destination.

Tom Bristol
President Chewelah Arts Guild

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