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.
It is that time of year and yes, we are all ready. The Historical Village museum closes for the season after Labor Day and then the quilters begin meeting again on Fridays in the old school house. The second Friday in September we will have our annual Fall Rummage sale from 10:00 – 2:00. Lots of treasures including all sorts of fabric for your sewing pleasure. Stop by so you don’t miss out! The third Friday of September is when we seriously start quilting again until next May. All the quilters are looking forward to this: the conversation, the camaraderie, the chance to explore new quilt patterns, colors and designs. We have already decided which quilts we will start with. The blue one is my personal favorite but you will have to wait until it is on the frame to see it.
As always, if you are interested in joining whether as a novice or an experienced quilter, don’t hesitate to stop by on Fridays between 10:00am and 3:00pm. No pressure as this group has a good sense of humor and more patience then anyone might imagine. And if you have a quilt top that you would like to have hand quilted, this is the group to do it. Stop by any Friday and one of the woman will explain the process. Not only will you get your quilt finished but the proceeds from our quilting support the Historical Village.
The Eureka Montana Quilt Show was a lovely success. And so many generous people bought raffle tickets to support the Historical Village. Of course there were numerous volunteers helping that day to staff the museum, sell tickets and let people know about our raffle items. Lots of efforts made to keep the grounds and the buildings at the Historical Village looking great and maintaining our valley’s history.
A few more busy weeks in summer before the season ends. On August 21, Shakespeare in the Parks will perform Othello at the Historical Village. And the next afternoon, August 22, all the museum docents and Village quilters gather for their annual picnic. Labor Day is the last weekend that the Historical Village museum is open. Then everything in the buildings will be covered over for winter and the quilters begin to meet again every Friday from 10:00 – 3:00 in the old school house.
Just in case you missed purchasing a quilt during the quilt show (can you ever have enough?), we still have a few beautiful ones for sale. Cathryn Schroeder pieced a log cabin quilt in shades of rust and apricot that was then hand quilted by the Tobacco Valley Board of History quilters. And Vivian Vanleishout pieced a beauty in shades of pale green and lilac that was also hand quilted (queen size). Both quilts are available at the Historical Village.
Congratulations to Laura Persson who won the raffle for the Victorian era quilt!
The first Saturday in August is always lovely in Eureka as hundreds of quilts grace downtown including the Historical Village and Memorial Park. Quilts are hung on buildings on both sides of the main street as well as on every possible surface (and then some) at the Historical Village. Over six hundred quilts will be on display this year.
Besides making sure the Historical Village grounds are in tip-top shape for this Saturday’s event, the Village volunteers will also work to have the museum open and to sell raffle tickets. There is the annual quilt raffle for one of the lovely quilts we made last winter. The drawing for that will be on August 26th at the Lincoln County Fair although raffle tickets can be purchased at the museum anytime between now and the fair. A very special quilt made from small pieces of silk back in the early 1900s will be raffled this Saturday. The Victorian era quilt will be on display at the Village museum all day Saturday and the winning ticket drawn at 4:00pm. Take time on Saturday to stop by the Historical Village museum (Fewkes Store) to see both the Victorian quilt and our other raffle quilt. All proceeds from both raffles go to maintain the Historical Village.
And very special thanks to the Eureka Montana Quilt Show Foundation for their generous gift which helped to cover the expense for renovating the old caboose. Donations from Town Pump and the Tobacco Valley Community Foundation were also received this summer and greatly appreciated. As always, summer is a challenging time with grounds maintenance as well as repairs to roofs and out buildings at the Historical Village. Donations from community members and local businesses and organizations help the Tobacco Valley Board of History continue to provide a pleasant setting for the public and archives of our valley’s history.
The response to our membership drive has been awesome. Thanks to everyone who sent something towards supporting the Historical Village. Of course it is not too late if your form happens to be still sitting on the kitchen table/desk. Just put it in an envelope with your donation, add our address (Tobacco Valley Board of History at PO Box 1452 Eureka, MT 59917), a stamp and you are good to go.
Hopefully you have seen the Great Northern caboose in the Village. Kenny Westbrook just finished the renovation. It is so beautiful – and much more sturdy then it was before. Children are going to thoroughly enjoy climbing on it this summer. And a few lucky adults will get to sit on the caboose steps to watch Shakespeare in the Parks.
The Village quilters stopped meeting on Fridays for the summer but some of their lovely handwork will be available at the Eureka Montana Quilt Show on August 4. Of course there are other quilts available for sale at the museum gift shop all summer. If you are searching for a unique wedding gift or something special for yourself, you might consider one of the tied quilts which are the perfect combination of beautiful, warm and affordable. Yes, here in northwest Montana, one often needs a quilt on chilly summer nights.
These are dates you surely should remember. The Eureka Montana Quilt Show is August 4th this year. As always this event decorates the entire town with beautiful quilts up and down main street but the Historical Village is really where the action happens. Vendors, a display of mini quilts, quilts on all the buildings and the museum open with its own selection of quilt sales offer a lot to chose from.
Shakespeare in the Parks comes to the Historical Village on August 21 with “Othello.” The play starts at 6:00pm and box dinners go on sale at 5:00pm. This event is always a lovely way to spend the evening so bring a blanket or a chair and get ready for some awesome theater. As always, the play is free to the public. Sunburst Community Service Foundation brings in Shakespeare in the Parks annually with help from Lincoln Electric Coop, Interbel, donations from the community and box dinner sales that evening.
Both fantastic events that are available to anyone to enjoy. Both take place on the Historical Village grounds which are a delight in the summer with the soft grass and shady trees. As always volunteers strive to keep everything well maintained for locals as well as out of town visitors to enjoy. The Great Northern caboose just had major renovation. The museum is getting some roof repairs. The playground equipment and latrines are in fine working order. And Bev has lined out docents who have the Village buildings open everyday until early September from 1:00 – 5:00pm.
It just doesn’t get much better does it? Life in the Tobacco Valley is pretty sweet this time of year so take a morning or afternoon or evening to wander through the Historical Village grounds. Or come for one of the awesome events that will take place. Hope to see you there.
I suppose it is no surprise a tinge of ageism creeps in when quilting with this group of women. Our ages stretch from mid sixties to mid nineties. Besides piecing, hand quilting and putting on bindings, these women also set up wooden quilt frames which are large enough to hold a queen size quilt. They schlep boxes with fabrics and other odds and ends when there is a rummage sale. They schlep boxes of books when there is a book sale. They move furniture around in the museum as needed, set up displays and archive the treasures. They trim bushes on the grounds, pick up trash and shovel snow – whatever the season requires. They keep accounts, run membership campaigns, and sell raffle tickets. They oversee construction projects in the Historical Village and often do some of these projects themselves. Two of the quilters recently helped to replace broken slats in the boardwalk.
When there is work to be done, especially this time of year, we look around at our ranks and wonder where some younger people are. Not so much because we can’t manage, but because it seems there are things young people might learn about maintaining their valley’s heritage and running a museum, picking up skills along the way such as grant writing and chinking an old log building. And this is where ageism slips out, while sitting over the quilt stitching. Remarks are made about ‘those’ people who spend too much screen time, or time constantly checking messages on their phones. Or those people who say they would like to help out but it is just too difficult for them to find time on a Wednesday morning or a Saturday afternoon or any other time when help might be needed at the Historical Village.
Thus that tricky sneer of ageism, the shrug of shoulders, the roll of eyes at the group – those young people – who are summarily dismissed. And of course it isn’t true as of course there are some young people who do make an effort, who do show up. Magdalena, delightfully middle aged, stepped up to help on a regular basis at the museum. Madison, who graduates from high school this June, is bringing a group of her high school friends over next week to weed. But as some of the current quilters started helping at the Historical Village back in the 1970s, they wonder where the young people are who will pick up the torch to carry it forward. And young doesn’t necessarily mean teens or twenties. Middle aged is fine for learning the skills we can teach, or bringing skills already honed. As we keep our eyes open for individuals willing to step up, ready to take the torch, we also are going to try hard not to fall prey to ageism.