Quilt exhibit to open at museum April 29

Published 3:15 pm Tuesday, March 21, 2017

By JENNIFER MAIER / Community Columnist

There is a saying, “Blankets wrap you in warmth, but quilts wrap you in love.”

On April 29, the Shelby County Museum and Archives will host an event where quilts take center stage.

Cassie Blair, a student at the University of Montevallo, has taken an interest in the quilts at the Shelby County Museum and Archives since she started working at the museum in the Falcon Scholar Program. (Contributed)

The event, titled “A Stitch In Time: A Tribute to Shelby County’s Quilting History,” will be the culmination of months of work by Cassie Blair, a student at the University of Montevallo who has worked at the museum as part of the university’s Falcon Scholar Program.

Cassie, a history major, took an interest in the quilts last summer when she was organizing museum records. And, what started as simple curiosity, has blossomed into a love of quilts, and the history behind them.

As director of the museum, I also have an interest in knowing more about the quilts. Having taken over the role of director at the end of 2015, I felt it was time to delve into more detail about the collection.

Cassie’s interest in the quilts has taken both of us on a journey back to a time when scraps of cloth weren’t just thrown away; they were made into something beautiful.

During our exploration of the collection, one quilt in particular stood out from the rest. Not because it was the prettiest, or the oldest, but because it contained hundreds of signatures. Many of them were the names of people who lived in Shelby County at the turn of the last century.

Measuring 66 inches by 86 inches, the quilt features redwork embroidery with over 500 signatures as well as images of three local historic buildings. A date of 1915 is sewn on the quilt.

Blair has been working to compile a list of all the names on the quilt. A brief search of local records shows many of these people were residents of south Shelby County in the early 1900s.

Although signature quilts aren’t uncommon, the grouping of the names and the presence of the historical buildings makes this quilt a bit unusual.

A local quilt expert, Agnes Pool, has examined the quilt and believes that the fabric on the quilt top is consistent with what would have been used in 1915. Unfortunately, little is known about the quilt, such as who made it, or why it was made.

Now known as the “Mystery Quilt,” we hope to involve the community in unraveling the mystery when it is unveiled at the exhibit on April 29.

The exhibit will feature nine other vintage and antique quilts from the museum collection, as well as quilts belonging to Agnes Pool, Rene’ Day, Linda Ackley and the late Jackie Cates.

The event is open to the public and will be from 2-4 p.m. at the Shelby County Museum and Archives in Columbiana.