Thursday, September 4, 2014

Keeping Memories Through Quilting

The history of quilting as a pastime stretches back to early Egypt and has been a favorite of American women since the earliest days of American history.   In the most basic sense, quilting is the act of stitching together layers of fabric and padding to make a blanket. But in reality, quilting has held a sense of hominess and nostalgia for centuries. There is nothing so tangibly historic than the quilt our great-grandmothers made, which somehow lived to be passed down from generation to generation. It is an art form that has not lost its followers. Quilt guilds still work together in communities across the country to create beautiful works of art.
In the 19th century, quilting became extremely popular as fabric became more varied and easier to access. Pioneer women brought quilts as part of their wagon train, and they kept families warm on cold nights in rugged dugouts. Not only were quilts used as bedding, but pioneer families hung them over drafty doorways, cut them into strips and stuffed them into the chinks of log cabins, and even bartered to help pay off debts.  Pioneer women would quilt alone, but also joined together in community quilting bees—often the only form of social contact early pioneer women had.
            Quilting was an activity that bonded pioneer women together, something that could be shared with friends. And this sense of camaraderie helped create a popular style of quilt—the memory quilt. After all, when one of these friends departed the group to continue west, what better way to wish her well than to give her a memory quilt?  The blocks of a memory quilt combined piecework with embroidery and were designed to remind the recipient of her quilting friends.  Each block usually contained a space where the quilter could “sign” it by embroidering her signature on the block.  Other names for this type of quilt were album, autograph, or Friendship quilt. In 2009, the Sunflower Quilt Guild donated their own form of a memory quilt to the museum.
The quilt donated to the Historical Society is a memory quilt of special value. It tells a wonderful story about Junction City History through photographs of local places. Donated in 2009 for the Sesquicentennial (150th Anniversary), the Junction City quilt is among the museum’s top prized collection.  The process to the finished quilt was a lengthy one. Beverly Heronemus and Marian Kosovich selected pictures at the historical society.  They were then scanned and copied onto specially treated muslin by Shelly Mendoza.  After the quilt had been assembled, Gerry Dempsay quilted members’ names in the margins by machine. 
The Junction City Sesquicentennial Quilt donated by the Sunflower Quilt Guild in 2009
The Sunflower Quilt Guild held their initial meeting in Junction City on September 19, 1996. Within that first group of quilters were: President Terry Mozingo, Vice-President Isabelle Conway-Biggs, Secretary/Treasurer Charlotte Grelk and Reporter Kathy Triplett. The purpose of the Sunflower Quilt Guild was and is to “promote quilting and strive to educate new techniques to quilters of all skill levels.” While the quilters primarily work on their own work, the Sunflower Quilt Guild also supports local groups by donating their completed quilts. The list of organizations that received quilts includes the VA Center Topeka, KS, Hospice of Geary County, Wounded Warrior Battalion, St Francis Foster Care and the Geary County Historical Society.
             The Sunflower Quilt Guild’s Quilt Show is coming to the Geary County Historical Society September 13-14.  Join us at the Historical Society Saturday September 13, 10-4, and Sunday September 14, 12-6 and enjoy the history of quilting. And on Sunday from 3-6, stay for the Annual Geary County Historical Society Ice Cream Social with good music, good food and a touch of history!