LS: Art of Quilting Column November 02, 2008

Quilts are American history in the making

Quilters and their quilts have a story to tell, and the Alliance for American Quilts uses modern technology to preserve this history.

The national nonprofit, headquartered in Asheville, N.C., supports and develops projects to document, preserve and share the history of quilts and quilt makers.

The alliance keeps an online database of quilt images and records. An oral history project is archived at the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center.

The alliance also compiles portraits of key quilt revival pioneers and spearheads rescue and recovery efforts to save quilt ephemera (old magazines, contest forms, pattern booklets, publicity fliers, stencils, scrapbooks, etc.). 

This year, the alliance celebrated its 15th anniversary with — what else? — a quilt contest.

In keeping with the 15th year, rules dictated the size at 15 inches by 15 inches each. Every piece had to reflect the quilt maker’s personal history in some way.

Out of 67 entries, three winners were chosen. All of the entries are being auctioned on eBay with proceeds benefiting the
alliance and its multiple projects.

You can see all of the entries and read what the quilters had to say about them at

Three online auction sessions are scheduled through Nov. 19.

Winning first place in the My Quilts/Our History contest was Allison Ann Aller of Washougal, Wash. Her quilt, titled “The Home in the Garden,” features a photo transfer of her house surrounded by gardens where she has lived and quilted for 17 years.

During that time, she has made a transition from traditional quilting to crazy quilting with its beading and hand embroidery stitches, according to her artist statement.

“This piece celebrates all those adventures of quilting, and the beautiful subjects — especially the flower — that inspire me,” Aller wrote.

Now she can try all the latest techniques on a new Pfaff Classic sewing machine, the contest’s top prize worth $1,049.

Second place and a year’s supply of Mountain Mist quilt batting worth $500 went to Pat Holly of Ann Arbor, Mich., for her small quilt titled “Chintz Bird.”

Holly’s fondness for antique textiles, particularly an 18th century Indian chintz fabric, was the impetus for her entry.

However, she enjoys using modern machines and exploring ways to embellish backgrounds with machine stitches, Holly said in her artist statement. Bird images also intrigue her.

The third place winner lives here in Colorado, Highlands Ranch to be exact. Kathryn Wright used a variety of vintage and new embroidery, quilt block pieces, crocheted lace, photos and buttons and beads in her quilt called “Meme’s Button Box.”

In her statement, Wright explained the importance of family and how sewing was passed down through generations.

“My mother’s mother died when my mother was born, so she and her siblings were raised by her grandmother, Olive Logan Mayhew ‘Meme.’ Meme was a seamstress, tailor and quilter who taught my mother to love doing all types of handwork,” Wright wrote.

“Mom started me (the only girl out of four children) sewing by letting me use buttons from Meme’s button boxes to make doll clothes, then my own clothes, then my first quilt.”

For her prize, Wright received software, CDs and books from the Electric Quilt Co. valued at $250.

All those who made a quilt entry are to be commended for their support of the Alliance for the American Quilt.

I’m glad to know this organization has been dedicated since 1993 to promoting quilts as an important grass–roots art form.

I was most pleased to find in their Quilt Index a listing and photos of nearly 400 quilts from our own state’s Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum collection.

If you want to get a line on quilt history, just go online.

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