New Exhibit – Southern Quilts

New Exhibit – Southern Quilts

On display December 11, 2020 - March 9th, 2021

The American South has a rich quilting history, steeped in tradition and passed down through the generations. The glorious designs, colors, and patterns are unique to this region of the United States. The quilts created here reflect the influence of multiple cultural traditions brought to the region over the last four centuries. The earliest patchwork quilts came from traditions in the British Isles. Unique designs and artistic interpretations emerged as German, Scots-Irish, and other European settlements converged in the American South. Each quiltmaker made her choices based on the styles, patterns, traditions, and fabrics available to her at the time.

Southern quilts have a distinctive feel that sets them apart from other textiles. Many of these pieces are our heavy cotton quilts that are often finished with Baptist Fan or elbow quilting. These thick pieces are generally thought of as utilitarian pieces, but many have simply been created using the available resources. Cotton was King throughout the South, and the abundant crop was the primary batting used in the quilts of the region.

Southern women did not shy away from difficult patterns, and specific designs with multiple pieces were popular across the region. Southern quilt makers were fond of circular patterns, particularly designs with points, teeth, and spikes.

The established theme in quilts from every region of the South is that we made do with what we had or we went without it. Across the all socio-economic situations, quilts from each region reflect the resources available. Those who lived along established trade routes had access to a wide range of fabrics while others were dependent upon their local mills.

The theme of make-do has been present during every era of our Southern quilt making history. If you run out of fabric, use something else. if you need an extra border, add one. if you are short on skills or talent, make it work. Use up those leftover blocks as you mix, match, and create. This quirky attitude adds to the charm of our Southern pieces. I love the odd border, the use of a different block and the often unexpected pop of character! This was not an "I don't care what you think" mentality but a mindset of making-do. it allowed Southern quilters to continue creating needed quilts and bed coverings in times of hardship and economic downturn. Southern quilt makers were used to making-do. it was a way of life that allowed our quilting traditions to survive.

Cotton Boll Quilt

Mary Kerr, Curator - marykerr.com

About Mary W. Kerr - Mary Kerr is an American Quilt Society certified appraiser, author, curator, and an award-winning quilter. She was born into a family of quilters and has found memories of growing up in Athens, Georgia. Kerr has been teaching since 1987. Her current lectures and workshops focus on quilt history and repurposing of antique textiles into contemporary quilts. Her recent work marries her love of all things vintage with the freedom of expression that is encouraged in the art quilt community.


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