The women who quilt on Fridays are hopeful. Sun comes through the school house windows making our space delightfully warm. It also helps us see the stitches we make, the patterns we follow. The old overhead lights in the school house aren’t the best and there’s discussion about replacing them. What would be economical as well as provide the best lighting for quilting through long Montana winters?
But today most things look possible. The sun helps. Yes, there’s still snow outside but it is not nearly as deep, and walking to the school house from the parking lot is so much easier than it was a month ago. There are times when it seems a video of these women might convey more of what they do to support the Historical Village than a blog. Our quilters slogging through snow on a frigid Friday morning, the pile of boots and coats accumulating at the door as everyone sits down to quilt would certainly be a piece of the footage.
This past Friday some of us didn’t even wear coats as it seems just possibly we are on the verge of Spring. There was talk about the fundraiser we held at the Trego Civic Center a few weeks back and appreciation for everyone who came out to support that. There was talk about the book sale we will have during Eureka’s Rendezvous. There was talk about the work that needs to be done over the summer, possible repairs, painting, etc. And, of course, there was talk about the beautiful quilts we are working on. One belongs to a friend of Sally’s, pieced from fabric the woman’s mother-in-law saved from her children’s clothes, fabric that was put away in the 1950s and now is being finished into a quilt to be used.
The other quilt (as we usually have two going) was pieced by a woman in Oklahoma. The design and fabric are by Kaffe Fassett, a name most of us didn’t know but now we do. A man who obviously has quite the eye for colors and designs and the ability to put these together in amazing ways. We muse whether he might want us to hand quilt one of his own quilts as we all believe hand quilting lends such a different feel. We see he’s doing quilt events at a museum in England this month and wonder if he might enjoy Eureka in the summer, perhaps for the Quilt Show on August 3rd. There is a mixture of laughter and excitement. The group doesn’t have expectations for fame but there is always thoughts about how to spread the word about the Historical Village and our work.
Thanks to all of you who support Pint Night for the Historical Village, and those who submit memberships for the Tobacco Valley Board of History, and those who come by the old school house to purchase gifts and buy quilts. Thanks to everyone of you who made donations of fabric or checks or time. And of course special thanks to the quilters who sew each Friday and the other volunteers who help maintain the museum. Recently Dave Leeman said, “The Historical Village is a jewel. We’re so lucky to have it here.” Of course I had to agree with him. It’s our community’s history.
Last Friday a woman from another Montana town stopped by the old school house to visit. She had a few hours to spend so sat down to watch the quilters and was encouraged to give it a try. She was hesitant at first to try stitching on the large quilts, so we found her a small piece of fabric and a hoop to practice on.
It is so encouraging to watch an adult learn something new. Of course any of us can learn something new if we put our minds to it. Sign up for a class to learn Spanish. Ask a friend to teach us how to grow corn in northwest Montana. Take an online writing course. Read a book about the history of China. It is surprising that with so many opportunities to learn a new thing, we often go through life assuming we know enough. Or that we are too busy to take the time to learn.
It isn’t necessary here to go into all the evidence how learning something new helps brains build connections between neurons. Or how research shows lifelong learning is connected to successful aging. The question is – why would any of us put off learning a new thing when there are so many options available? Mary Louise, one of the skilled quilters who comes to the old school house on Fridays, started quilting at ninety years old. Bev was in her eighties when she decided to learn how a smart phone works and now regularly texts, sends photos, and enters reminders. Shirley, a skilled musician in our town, recently told me she didn’t start playing accordion until she was in her sixties. Morgan, a busy parent with three children, wrote her first play and will direct it this December as part of the community theater.
We can all offer excuses at the end of the day. We are already doing too much, or are just too tired to take on one more thing, or – heaven forbid – we don’t need to learn anything else. But before you brush aside an opportunity to learn something new, think about it. Maybe it will only take a few hours a week to start studying Japanese. Maybe rather then mindless screen time, you can sign up for a class. Or ask a neighbor to teach you to weld. Or stop by the old school house on a Friday morning to learn to quilt.
Our community is so generous. There were all those individuals who sent membership checks over the summer to support the Historical Village. Then there were the shoppers who came by for our September rummage and fabric sale. One woman traveling from Pennsylvania was so taken with the fabric strips we had at the sale that she called after she got back home asking if she could buy more. We were tickled with her interests and immediately arranged to have the fabric she wanted shipped to her. And nearly every week now, some one stops by the old school house on Friday when the women are quilting to make a donation.
Last week Donna Todd came in with a lovely old quilt top that she gave to the Historical Village quilters. We are still discussing how it should be quilted. Sally thinks this top was pieced around the 1930s. No doubt it will be a wonder once it is laid out on the frame, all those vintage colors and patterns. We look forward to working on it.
Pam, a staunch Historical Village supporter from Oklahoma, who has sent numerous quilts over the years to be hand quilted, recently gave us fabrics as well as some hand stitched items for our winter bazaar. Along with these treasures, she also sent two beautiful quilts we will work on this winter. One, a lovely collection of rainbow colors, might just be my current personal favorite.
When people say it takes a village – it is obvious the community that supports the Historical Village in the Tobacco Valley is a village that stretches across the entire country. The woman in Pennsylvania, Pam in Tulsa, and of course many people in Montana are all part of our village, helping with resources, quilts and volunteer efforts. As we enjoy this autumn season, it indeed feels like a bountiful harvest. Thank you.
The women started quilting on Fridays again. We set up a lovely blue one with blocks created by numerous people. It will be a pleasure to decide how to quilt each unique design. No doubt it will take us through til November, and there are other quilts waiting to be done. Thankful to have this pile as it is one of the many ways we raise money to maintain the Historical Village.
To begin this season off, the Tobacco Valley Board of History constructed a strategic plan to carry us through the next three years. The Historical Village was first established in 1971 so now nearly fifty years old. Forty-seven to be exact. Forty-seven years of volunteers fundraising, getting old buildings painted, roofs repaired, exhibits set up, the museum open everyday in the summer. A lot of accomplishments for an all-volunteer organization in a small town. And now we want to plan well so that this can continue for your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Darris, Lynda and Sally fine tuned suggestions from the entire board. Some very exciting ideas that we will begin to work towards making a reality.
Sally will create History Suitcases that can be borrowed by schools and home school groups. Each suitcase will have artifacts, photos, books and other items that students can touch, read, examine and learn from. We also decided to expand our outreach to the community as we begin doing more events at the Village starting this winter. For you not to miss anything, get on our email list so you can receive quarterly newsletters. You can ‘like’ the Tobacco Board of History Facebook page as we will have updates there. And of course we will be putting our quarterly calendar in the newspaper.
We are also building our lists of volunteers. There are summer docents for the museum, quilters, archivists and individuals to help with small repairs and some grounds maintenance. Obviously we need more. People who like to help organize events, help get our calendar out, fix things that need fixing (yes, the teeter totter is on the list), do demonstrations in the summer of skills we don’t want lost.
And an archival room is in the plan! This would be a space that is secure, temperature and humidity controlled and with a place for individuals to do research. This has been needed for some time and now we are ready to take it on – find someone to do the design, raise the funds to build it, and then move the files, boxes and other archival materials into the new space. Once this is completed (remember this is a three year plan) it will open more room in the Fewkes store museum to expand the exhibits there.
We are definitely springing into Fall.
What do New York City, Gee’s Bend, Alabama and Eureka, Montana have in common? Beautiful handmade quilts. On a recent trip to the Big Apple, I was fortunate enough to see an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art entitled Souls Grown Deep. Part of this exhibit featured quilts from Gee’s Bend, Alabama. In 1998, folk art collector William Arnett happened to be going through a small town in southern Alabama and noticed quilts on clotheslines. They were so striking, he stopped to get information about them and eventually bought some. Later he arranged for over seventy quilts made by the women in Gee’s Bend to be part of an exhibit that traveled nationally. They were shown in art museums from Washington, DC to San Francisco, from Houston to Boston. There are books and videos about these quilts and the women who made them. In 2006, the US Postal Service even came out with a set of postage stamps that featured images of the quilts. So for me, it was a remarkable moment to stand in the Met and see six of them displayed. I was so tempted to touch them, lift a corner to see what the back quilting looked like, run my fingers over the colors. But of course I didn’t.
Standing there brought so many thoughts and emotions about the women in Gee’s Bend, about the women who sew quilts in the Historical Village, about the fabrics used in all of these quilts, the friendships as quilters sit together sewing, the designs, the stitches, the talk. Especially this time of year as fall sets in and the quilters at the Historical Village begin meeting on Fridays, we get into a rhythm that will take us through the winter and into spring. Here in Eureka, those of us who quilt with this group are ready to start up again. Whether our quilts will ever grace the walls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art doesn’t matter. Mostly we want our stitches to be even and the knots hidden.