Creating a quilt is long, tedious work that strains the eyes and, in some cases, the pocketbook. But quilting has long been a beloved pastime, and even those who don’t quilt appreciate the end product.
The art of American quilting evolved along with our country. The website Quilting in America defines a quilt as “a cloth sandwich, with a top, which is usually the decorated part, a back, and a filler in the middle.” Quilts made by early American settlers were strictly utilitarian and no record of them exists, according to the website. Quilt-making flourished in the 19th century as women progressed from using clothing remnants to piecing together colorful calicos. Interest in quilting surged during lean times, like World War I and the Great Depression, and revived again in the 1970s and 1980s when a new generation developed an interest in primitive crafts.
The town of Farragut’s upcoming show, “Beautiful World – One Quilt at a Time,” features works ranging from Jeff Dobson’s “Old Overcoat Quilt,” made from remnants of old overcoats and sturdy women’s skirts, to Beverley Hammond’s “Art Glass,” inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s art glass windows. The free show is 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15, and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, at Farragut Town Hall, 11408 Municipal Center Drive.
Quilts demonstrate how much energy and emotion can be wrapped up in a physical thing. Some tell a story through scraps of old garments; others remind us of a time when women of multiple generations gathered around a quilt frame to share work and wisdom. Some convey the lives of ancestors we never knew. Another of Dobson’s family quilts was created just after the Civil War by his great-great-grandmother, Mary Giles Dobson. The beautiful, solemn quilt is all the more precious because Mary, a war widow, raised three handicapped children by herself.
Another thing that makes quilts special is that many are made to be given away. Several of the quilts in this year’s show are examples of such gifts. Dolores Wicker is exhibiting a quilt made for her by a friend soon after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Kathy gave Dolores the quilt for Christmas, and Dolores took it with her when she received treatment. She had the Tennessee Cancer Specialists staff sign it after her last chemo treatment.
Giving a quilt away is a truly generous act, given the enormous investment. Brittany Spencer, the town’s special events and program coordinator, came across a breakdown of the cost of making a quilt while she was organizing the event. The total cost of a 65-inch square quilt runs between $1,503 and $6,288 – $208 for materials, $1,175-$5,960 for construction (based on $7.25 per-hour labor cost) and $120 for finishing. That adds up to a mighty precious “cloth sandwich.”
Attend “Beautiful World – One Quilt at a Time” to see 53 handmade quilts owned by local residents. The Farragut Museum is also open during the show.
Wendy Smith coordinates marketing and public relations for the town of Farragut.