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.
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.