This year, as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, quilters will have a perhaps unique opportunity to learn about the quilts and quilters of that time. Exhibits are popping up all over the country.
Over Memorial Day weekend I had the chance to see an amazing exhibit at the Southern Illinois Art and Artisans Center at Rend Lake. Naturally we were not allowed to do any flash photography of such rare and fragile textiles, so the only image is this one reproduced from their website.
Many of these quilts had never been exhibited before and each is accompanied with a story of the woman who made it and her family’s role in the war.
Only seventeen quilts are on display, which at first doesn’t seem like much of a collection. However, knowing that many Civil War era quilts went off with soldiers and were either worn to rags or used to bury the fallen, it is amazing that so many remain from the communities of central and southern Illinois.
The story of the quilting women of Illinois was one of mixed feelings and divided loyalties. Though Illinois regiments fought with the Union army of the North, many of the settlers of Illinois, especially of Southern Illinois, had come from Kentucky and other areas that supported the Confederacy. These stories made the quilts even more touching to view. Read more about the history of Civil War Quilts here.
The exhibit runs through October 30, 2011 so if you manage to be anywhere near Southern Illinois this summer or fall, I urge you to go. Find more information about the exhibit here.
As I mentioned, Illinois isn’t the only place to see amazing Civil War quilts. Every fall the astounding “Dear Jane” quilt , (made by Jane Sickle in 1863), is displayed at the Bennington Museum in Bennington, VT. Because of the fragility of this quilt it is only displayed for about six weeks each year, and I think it would be well worth the trip. Read more about the quilt here.Is there a Civil War anniversary event focusing on textiles and quilts planned for your town? Leave a comment and let us all know about it.