|‘Pieces of History’ Quilt Show at Pioneer Museum of Alabama|
Quilts. Say the word and it stirs memories among those who have had some association with them.
And, these days, who hasn’t?
In earlier times, quilts were things of necessity. They were the bedding keeping the chill off on cold winter nights. At other times, the colorful patterns brought simple beauty to the home.
When people could "do better," the much-used quilts were relegated to the back of closets, between the mattresses or the garbage dump. But, in recent years, quilts have made a comeback as articles of nostalgia and ways to express creativity through the art of quilting.
Grandma’s old quilt has become an heirloom her blood and kin argue over. Mama’s quilt made for the newborn is a treasure to be cherished for generations to come. And, little Suzy’s first quilt square has found a permanent place in a shadowbox on the wall.
With all of this in mind, the Pioneer Museum of Alabama in Troy is sponsoring its 50th "Pieces of History Quilt Exhibit," which includes more than 100 quilts, some right off the frame and others dating back as early as the late 1700s.
The "Pieces of History Quilt Exhibit" opened on Valentine’s Day and will run through March 31.
"We are very excited by the response to the ‘Pieces of History Quilt Exhibit,’" said Jerry Peak, museum director. "We have a wide variety of patterns and a wide range of age. The oldest quilt we have in the exhibit is a ‘feather’ quilt belonging to the museum. It was made by the grandmother of Mrs. Sam Passmore in 1775 in South Carolina and brought to Monticello by Mrs. Passmore in 1820."To place the quilt in history, Peak said the story is the Passmore family stood by the roadway and watched as the Indians were driven West by soldiers in 1832.
Peak said in addition to the beauty and creative genius of the quilts on exhibit, each quilt offers a unique "storycard" with a history of the quilt giving a glimpse into the past.
One of the really unique "patterns" in the exhibit is a "Trip Around the World" quilt belonging to Louise Moody.
It is a one of the many quilts in her grandmother’s collection with no recorded history. However, Bea McKnatt, a member of the Pioneer Quilters, said the quilt dates back to the early 1900s. The quilt top was quilted by the quilters at Ramer Methodist Church.
What is so interesting about this quilt is each row that goes "around the world" is a match, except for four rows. The lady who pieced the top evidently ran out of material that matched and just used what she had.
Shanny Sansom, also a Pioneer quilter, said there are literally thousands of variations of quilt patterns.
"Many of the quilt patterns had different names," she said. "Dutch Rose was also called Hearts and Gizzards. Some patterns had as many as seven or eight different names."
Some quilts have "exacting" patterns while others, like "string quilts" were made from scraps with no rhyme or reason.
"But, in the early years, their main purpose was to keep people warm," Peak said.
However, many of the early quilters found time to fulfill their desire to be creative while still making something practical for her family.
Carol Glayre said during the War Between the States, many women made quilts for the soldiers, both Confederate and Union.
"These quilts were given to the soldiers who often had little else to keep them warm," Glayre said.
Many of these quilts were made from scraps and were, therefore, inexpensive to make and were often string or piece quilts. The pattern was not important. These quilts were strictly for warmth.
"After the war, women continued to make quilts as fundraisers for orphans, widows and injured soldiers," Glayre continued.
One such quilt was made by Terry Clothier Thompson and called Dixie Rose Confederate Memorial Quilt.
Glayre’s 1860s’ reproduction "Dixie Rose" quilt is on display in the "Pieces of History Quilt Exhibit" and is made from 1860s reproduction material.
"The material I used is reproduction prints from that era," she said. "I also used authentic stencils from that era, so my quilt is an accurate reproduction of the Dixie Rose Confederate Memorial Quilt, except for the size."
Glayre’s quilt is 98x108 inches and made to fit a queen-size bed.
"Back then, a bed would have been 54 inches in width and no more than 80 inches in length," she explained. "That would not have worked with today’s bed size."
The "Pieces of History Quilt Exhibit" has many storycards making the exhibit even more interesting. But the beauty and workmanship of each quilt make it a worthy entry in a show telling the story, not only of the history of quilting but the creativity and skill of women yesteryear and today.
The Pioneer Museum of Alabama is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 1 until 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Admission is charged. Special group rates are offered for groups of 25 or more. For more information, call (334) 566-3597.
Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.