Several quilting “Bees,” or volunteers at the Institute of Texan Cultures and members of the Greater San Antonio Quilt Guild, demonstrated a living tradition on Nov. 20. Kay Allison, Priscilla Garret, and Gail Dickman were working on a Cottage Grove quilt. It will have nine houses, ladybugs, and flowers.
Allison said this design is not traditional. “It was probably designed in the last five years.”
There are three parts of a quilt: the bottom, the batting, and the top. To put them all together is called quilting. Priscilla Garret said work on the top portion is called piecing.
She estimated she has about 50 quilts at her house. Some she made, some were inherited, and some purchased.
“In the old days, people had to quilt – that was the only way to keep warm,” Garret said. “Church ladies keep the quilting tradition alive today … they sell them or raffle them to raise funds.”
Some designs never go out of fashion. Friends or family members may autograph pieces of fabric. Their signatures are then embroidered and those pieces are sewn together. This is called a Friendship Quilt, Allison said. “It can be presented to someone going away so they won’t forget their friends at home,” she said.
Dickman is one of the younger member of the group. She reflected on changes in quilting styles and patterns. “Quilting has morphed quite a bit,” she said. “Quilts have become more artistic.”
There are 15 quilting volunteers who visit the ITC. Members of the Greater San Antonio Quilt Guild showcase their skills on a rotating basis. Visit them before Jan. 11 and catch two related exhibitions.
“Modern Masterpieces by Texas Quilters, 1989-2010,” and “Texas Art Quilts, 1993-2011,” are two imaginative exhibits from the Texas Quilt Museum. Quilts from dozens of Texas “Bees” feature modern modifications of this ancient craft. The exhibition is promoted in part by donations from the Quilter’s Guild of Dallas and Helena Hibbs Endowment Fund.
These quilts appropriate traditional quilting methods and fuse them with designs from science and fantasy. Political statements have been hidden into quilts for centuries and now they are displayed front and center. The beauty of nature – from underwater to earthly gardens to heavenly splendor – is displayed with leading edge creations.
A companion exhibition is the current student presentation, “Texas 4-H Quilts and Student Masterpieces,” also running until Jan. 11.
2014 is the centennial of the Congressional Smith-Lever Act, which provided for a national Cooperative Extension Service. Under it, the boys and girls club work became 4-H (Head, Heart, Hands, and Health).
Today’s 4-H Club students use quilting skills to benefit seriously ill or traumatized children in the “Project Linus” project. 4-H ‘Blanketeers’ may create ‘Quilts of Valor’ to offer comfort to combat veterans and service members whose lives have been touched by war.
Student-Produced Exhibits at the ITC showcase the artistic creations of kids at Texas schools from kindergarten to 12th grade. A sample of six quilts from students across the state are displayed in a room along the south wall.
“Rainbows of Hope,” a colorful quilt by Alison Duncan of San Patricio County, is like a ray of sunshine on a dreary day.
Don’t let the cold or rain keep you indoors this winter. What could be warmer than taking in the thermal energy of a quilting collection?
The Institute of Texan Cultures is at the UTSA Hemisfair Park Campus, 801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd. Admission ranges from $8 for adults to free for students with UTSA and Alamo Colleges identification. Call 210-458-2300 for holiday hours.
*Featured/top image: “Modern Masterpieces by Texas Quilters, 1989-2010,” and “Texas Art Quilts, 1993-2011” exhibits from the Texas Quilt Museum on display at the Institute of Texan Cultures. Courtesy image.