Years ago, when our forefathers and foremothers needed warm coverings on their beds, they didn't go to a big-box store for a blanket, much less today's weighted blankets. They made their own coverings, or quilts, often from things they had around the house, like old clothing, scraps from making clothing 0r even feed sacks.
But it wasn't just the poor who quilted because they could not afford store-bought bed coverings. All social classes made and used quilts. According to Wikipedia, Colonial-era quilts were decorative creations that showed the needle-working skill of the maker.
Many of us have a quilt or two handed down for generations. This writer has two quilt tops machine-stitched by her grandmother probably near the beginning of the 20th century.
Quilting is still popular today and many contemporary as well as historical quilts will be on exhibit at the Mendenhall Homeplace on June 26 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
The event is free but donations are greatly appreciated to further the work of the Historic Jamestown Society, which operates the Mendenhall Homeplace, 603 W. Main St., Jamestown. Parking is available on the grounds.
The rain date is June 27 from 2-5 p.m.
The Homeplace has resumed regular operating hours following closing during the pandemic.
"This first event after Covid-19 will be held [primarily] outside so people will feel more comfortable," said Sandra McGee, one of the organizers. "The theme is 'Every Quilt Tells A Story' so it will accent the fact that the quilts here and the quilts others are sharing will tell some of the history of homesteads such as this."
The quilts will be displayed on the porches of the Richard Mendenhall and the Madison Lindsay houses on the grounds as well as inside the bank barn. Several local quilters and quilt guilds will be present to answer questions and offer insights about the stories, symbolism and crafting techniques of their quilts. There are many different quilting patterns. Some exhibitors are expected to demonstrate their craft.
Each of the quilt guilds is expected to sell tickets for raffles for one of their handmade quilts, with winners to be announced at a later date.
Also on display are quilts belonging to members of the Mendenhall family, including Judith Jemima Mendenhall who grew up in the house, and Oriana Mendenhall, wife of Nereus Mendenhall, Judith's brother. These quilts were probably made between the 1840s-1880s. Since these quilts are over 100 years old, they will be displayed inside the Homeplace, just off the porch.
The quilt show is just one of several programs scheduled by the Historic Jamestown Society to showcase the rich history of Jamestown and items that can be viewed at the Mendenhall Homeplace.
Quilts were originally made by piecing fabric together by hand, a tedious process for an intricate pattern. The invention of the sewing machine around 1830 sped up the process.
Local quilter Bobbie Huggins – who did a lot a quilting during the pandemic – prefers to quilt by hand, not machine, as do many people these days.
"When I say I hand-quilt mine, people look at me and say, 'What?'" Huggins said.
Huggins doesn't have a favorite pattern when she quilts – in fact she refuses to use the same pattern more than once – but just lets the mood take her.
"I start with something in the middle and it tells me what to do," she said. She will be displaying a quilt featuring the Jamestown Public Library in the center. She used fabric she had around her house.
Some people believe quilts were used to direct slaves to freedom during the Underground Railroad.
"That idea was debunked many years ago," said Shawn Rogers, director of the Mendenhall Homeplace. "It was a way for people to tell the stories of what did happen, to keep memories alive. They were basically memory quilts."
Evidence of quilting has been found as far back as 3400 BC as indicated in drawings. A carved ivory figure of an Egyptian pharaoh in the British Museum appears to be wearing a quilted jacket.
Quilts are said to represent the love of the maker, tradition or history, and friendship. The word comes from the Latin "culcita," meaning mattress or bolster.
Fiber Arts Day
The Historic Jamestown Society is also planning a Fiber Arts Day in October. It will feature vendors and demonstrations of such activities as knitting, basketweaving, macramé, embroidery, looms, spinning, wool dying and more.
Purple Alpaca Farms in Boonville is scheduled to bring an alpaca. Alpacas have an advantage over wool because of the extra hollow space in the fiber. This additional space creates a greater thermal capacity and allows for more warm air to fill the textile and provide extra warmth over sheep wool
Fiber art is fine art whose material consists of natural or synthetic fiber and other components, such as fabric, wool, grasses and more. It focuses on the materials and manual labor on the part of the artist as part of the works' significance, and prioritizes aesthetic value over use.
The exact date will be announced soon.