The idea of quilting may conjure an image of sorting through old scraps of material and patching them together to make a blanket. But in pre-Civil War America, quilting was a hobby primarily reserved for the wealthy. Only families of means could afford fabric and spare the leisure time. The woman of the house often had slaves or servants to assist with her quilting, and those quilts were a sign of social status.
But the industrial revolution and rise of textile mills brought changes to the craft, especially in North Carolina. The availability of fabric to the everyday woman made quilting accessible to all. The North Carolina Museum of History takes a deeper look at this history in the exhibit “QuiltSpeak: Uncovering Women’s Voices Through Quilts.” Cultural history curator Diana Bell-Kite says that while the museum has long had quilts on display as artistic pieces, this is the first time they are focusing on the specific stories the quilts tell. The exhibit is meant to be interactive, and accompanying events will feature local quilting guilds and experienced quilters who share tips. Jereann King Johnson is one of the founding members of the African American Quilt Circle in Durham and part of the Heritage Quilters Giving Circle in Warren County. Bell-Kite and Johnson join host Frank Stasio to preview the exhibit. “QuiltSpeak: Uncovering Women’s Voices Through Quilts” is on display until March 2020. On Saturday, June 15 from noon - 4 p.m., the museum will host a Quilt-In where quilting guilds will demostrate their work, offer tips and participants can get hands-on experience.