Union County Museum opens new exhibit of quilts

NEW ALBANY – They range from the utterly practical to the delicately decorative, but the quilts in the new exhibit at the Union County Heritage Museum have one thing in common: Each tells a story.
“Common Threads of Material Culture: Quilts and Their Stories” opens Thursday at noon with a presentation by quilter Mimi Alef of New Albany. It runs through the end of September.
The collection in this exhibit includes two quilts that have traveled throughout the nation and have been featured in books and on television. Another is a mystery, its maker unknown except for her stitched signature, “Emma.”
“There are so many quilts that have stories that we do not have the room to exhibit them,” said museum director Jill Smith.
“So many quilts have stories that we do not have the room to exhibit them (all),” said Museum Director Jill Smith. “When we started planning this exhibit, we had no idea how many quilts there are in Union County that fit this criteria.”
The stories in the exhibited quilts are as numerous as the bed garments themselves. Some were made with the first sewing machine brought into the area around 1850. Others showed the difficult times in which they were created through the scraps of worn clothing and even feedsacks from which they were made.
One ornate example is replete with luxurious fabric and extensive embroidery that have gotten it featured in a “Southern Living” quilt book.
The beauty of such an exhibit is showing that “the creativity of quilters is never-ending,” Smith said. One quilter even used crayons for the colors in her creation.
Alef is a active member of the Mississippi Quilt Guild and the creator of several nationally-recognized quilts. She will relate the origins of her art, translate terms unique to quilters and tell how the craft has changed.
An art major in college, Alef especially likes geometric patterns, frequently “editing” her own stitching.
“I work fast and I do a lot of un-sewing,” she said.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal