Pioneer Museum prepares for Quilt Show, sharing insight to past

Published 3:00 am Thursday, February 5, 2015

The staff of the Pioneer Museum of Alabama was busy Wednesday hanging quilts for the 2015 Pioneer Museum Quilt Show that opens Feb. 10 and comes down March 10.

Kari Barley, museum director, said the show will feature nearly 200 quilts.

“Those who visit the show will be able to trace the history of quilts from the pre-Revolution days to the present,” Barley said. “The stories that are associated with the quilts are as fascinating as the quilts.”

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Most of the quilts that will be in the show will be on loan to the museum. Some will be from the museum’s permanent collection.

“The earliest quilt that will be on display is a ‘feather quilt’ that was made around 1775 by the grandmother of Mrs. Sam Passmore,” Barley said. “The quilt was made in South Carolina and brought to Monticello, here in Pike County, in the 1820s.

“The story is that Mrs. Passmore’s family stood by the road and watched as the Indians were driven westward by soldiers about 1832.”

Barley said many of the quilts that will be in the Pioneer Museum Quilt Show have stories “attached” to them.

“The quilt show is an opportunity for people to look back at the role quilts played in the history of our country,” she said. “During the early days of our country, the quilt was nothing more than a utilitarian article. People needed quilts, lots of them, to provide warm covers for their beds. They also used quilts to hang over doors and windows to keep the wind and cold out. The windows were not sealed and the wind and cold could come right through.”

Barley said the batting for the quilts was the scattered cotton left in the fields after the harvest.

“Because people depended on quilts for warmth, they had to have a lot of them,” she said. “When a quilt became ragged, it was patched. When it was worn thin, it was used as batting for a new quilt.”

Quilts were spread at the edge of the fields and garden and were the playpens for babies while their mothers worked in the fields.

Every young woman had her wedding quilt in a chest in wait for the time she would have her own home.

“The double wedding ring was the pattern most young women chose for their wedding quilt,” Barley said. “Many times, the women of the community would have quilting bees and make the double wedding ring quilt for the brides to be.”

Barley said, when soldiers left for war, most of them carried a quilt along.

“Those quilts from home were often all that a soldier had to keep him warm,” Barley said. “It must have been comforting for those soldiers to have those quilts to remind them of home.”

Quilts were also used to as burial blankets and some women made quilts especially for that purpose, Barley said.

Quilts have played an important role in our country. For so long, quilts were items of necessity. Now, quilts have given way to central heating and electric blankets and are used more as decorative items.

“At the Pioneer Museum Quilt Show, we’ll have quilts of all kinds and every pattern you can imagine,” Barley said. “The quilt show is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the art of quilting and to learn about the “cloth sandwiches” of our past. We hope everyone will make plans to come.”