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Quilts are not specifically an Arkansas tradition, and can’t even be claimed as a purely Southern thing. But we Arkansans are still proud of the handiwork done by our mommas and grandmommas and their mommas before them. Proud enough, in fact, to enjoy showing it off in various quilt shows and sales around the state each year.
Quilting has long been a tradition that blends creativity and practicality, and learning to sew pieces of fabric together was a skill passed from mother to daughter for generations as the women of the family were tasked with keeping house. Some quilts were special, created to commemorate a marriage or new baby. Others may not have been pretty, but they were welcome during cold winters when a heavy stack of quilts on a feather bed was a vital tool for survival.
In the days when the United States was being settled, it was a lucky homemaker who could use new fabrics right off the bolt from a general store. Many quilters in decades past simply used what they had available, such as scraps of old pieces of clothing that were beyond repair. Wool was heavy and often used to create the more utilitarian quilts. Silks and fancy cottons were preferred for decorative efforts.
Patterns were often drawn and cut from whatever paper was available – often the local newspaper.
Beginning in the mid-1800s, companies began selling flour, corn and sugar in sacks that were made from durable cotton with colorful designs on them. It was easier to transport across country on the wagons that were headed West, and the sacks became a popular source of fabric used for everything from curtains to Sunday dresses. Once the kitchen staples were transferred into jars and canisters, the bags were washed and ironed and ready to be cut into geometric shapes to create patterns with names such as Log Cabin, Flying Geese and Cat’s Cradle.
These quilts are made from feed sack fabric. They are easy to identify by the coarser texture of the fabric itself and the small floral and graphic designs.
Today, quilting has become an industry of proportions that would shock most of our grandmothers – with fabric companies creating coordinating fabric lines and quilters eagerly waiting to see what’s new each year. Some fabrics come pre-cut into “fat quarters” for easy use by quilters. Many artists and designers have made an international name for themselves by designing fabrics for use by quilters.
In Arkansas, a quilt festival is a place to see a piece of history up close, and often learn of the person (or people) who created it. You can also find out about modern patterns and techniques being employed by today’s quilters, and often, take home a quilt for yourself. If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating (and beautiful) piece of Arkansas history, check out some of the upcoming shows around the state.
October 9, 2015
9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
36th Annual Quartz, Quiltz & Craftz Festival
Montgomery County Fairgrounds, 248 Fairgrounds Rd, Mt Ida, AR
For information 870-867-2723 or firstname.lastname@example.org
October 22-24, 2015
Thursday & Friday 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Hill ‘N Hollow Quilters Guild Quilt Show
Baxter County Fairgrounds, Educational Building, 1507 Fairground Drive, Mountain Home, AR
October 23-24, 2015
10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (both days)
The Stone County Extension Homemakers Biennial Quilt Show
Ozark Folk Center, Admin. Bldg, Hwy 382, Mountain View, AR
November 13-14, 2015
Friday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Saturday 9:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Arkansas Traditional Quilt & Craft Show
sponsored by the Van Buren County Extensions Homemakers Council
Van Buren County Fairgrounds, Graham-Weatherling Building, Hwy 16E, Clinton, AR
More information on shows that extend into 2016 can be found at the Quilters Resources page.
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