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Fabric


of our Lives


By Clint Branham, Communications Specialist


Just an old blanket, you say? Nay, that quilt on the shelf in grandma’s closet is much more than a mere blanket. T at quilt is a symbol of American heritage. Quiltmaking


at its very core is, in fact, quintessential Americana. It’s true that some in today’s modern world may take a


lesser view of quilts. To them, quilts are old-fashioned. T e fabric isn’t microfi ber, so it isn’t “plush.” T e style may be considered dated by some standards and, too, perhaps the designs and colors. Quilts do not always fi t with contempo- rary décor, so they are stowed away for years in closets and attics, never to be retrieved. For those among us who have lived long enough to ap-


preciate their usefulness during leaner times—times when people were forced to “make do with what they had”—quilts may carry a particularly special meaning. T ey mean even more the further back in history you go. T e quilt as we know it was once a strictly utilitarian arti-


cle, born from necessity. It was a warm topper for a bed or a covering for a draſt y door or window. Imported textiles were limited and money was scarce


during the early years of American colonization. Times were diffi cult. Colonial women became creative in their use of available materials; they had to fi nd the simplest, most expedient solutions to problems. T ey used what they had on hand to keep their families warm during the long, cold, winter months. Early settlers could not always aff ord to simply discard


well-worn clothing and items of fabric. Necessity required careful use of resources. When clothing became worn, it was patched. When blankets became tattered, they were combined with other blankets or used as fi ller for quilts. T ese were not carefully constructed heirlooms. Rather,


8 - Northeast Connection


they were functional items whose sole purpose was to keep people warm. Since even small cloth remnants could be used in patch-


work quilts, every scrap of fabric and usable portion of worn garments was saved. T e block-style, pieced quilt was an example of this functional approach to design. Only in later years, when manufactured fabrics were becoming more common and aff ordable, freeing women from the work of making their own yarns and fabrics, did a more artistic form of quilting become more widespread. Quilting evolved into a social event. Fine handwork


became a source of pride and status. Members of rural communities oſt en joined together to help neighbors with big projects such as barn building. In much the same way, ladies would pitch in and help a friend fi nish a quilt. Quilt- ing bees allowed groups to fi nish in a single day what may have otherwise taken one individual weeks or even months. For hard-working farm women, these gatherings no doubt provided welcome relief from the drudgery of everyday life. It is no wonder that quilts are cherished as precious


heirlooms and occupy honored places in homes and muse- ums. T ey have become a powerful reminder of our past, a means of expressing national pride and achievement. T e history of America can be seen in the history of


quilts—in the rich heritage leſt us by those thriſt y, self-suf- fi cient women who helped settle this land, in the families whose history is sewn into quilts one patch at a time.


Tradition Unfolds in Grove A proud American tradition will be on display this month


during the 28th Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees Quilt Show. Whether you love to quilt or simply admire skilled hand-


See FABRIC on page 12


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