Quilts are many things to many people.
They are tactile — physically warm and cuddly.
Quilts are visual, sometimes colorfully patterned. Oftentimes textured with thousands of tiny stitches, they feature intricate patterns in neutral spaces and highlight focal points.
Some quilts smell of lavender, rose or cedar from the linen cabinets where they are stored.
Though mute, they fairly shout out to share their stories — which are often unknown.
It’s all so delicious. These functional, practical yet innovative — almost living — items become more than the sum of their parts.
Because quilts are all about memories.
Every summer the Folsom History Museum opens a special exhibit of quilts and vintage fashions.
Because quilts and vintage fashions, like the ancient cathedrals of Europe, teach the “history of us.” If only on a smaller scale. Who we were as a people long ago. Who we are now. Even who we may become. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the values we carry into the future.
This year, the 33rd annual Antique Quilt and Vintage Fashion Exhibit, “Strolling Through the Garden,” features floral quilts and fashions in the style of Downton Abbey.
The featured quilts hail from the 1940s and 1950s. During those years, pattern kits were regularly featured for sale in newspapers. The most popular kits supplied appliqué flowers ready to be sewn onto the quilt. Antique quilts dating from as early as 1834 are also showcased.
Men and women visiting the museum may well find a quilt that reminds them of one made for them by a loving parent or grandparent.
There are patterns galore, many with embroidery.
Appliquéd Sunflower Sues grace one quilt called “Calico Girl.” Four generations (talk about memories!) slept under this quilt. It was made for Joan Duclos Spidell by her grandmother, Louella Edna Bruner, in the early 1930s in Oregon City, Ore. Many of the fabrics were from dresses Joan wore as a child.
Another antique quilt features Victorian redwork embroidery scenes of rural life in the garden. The initials E.L.L. and the dates 1895 and 1899 appear on it, giving information about the quilter and the time it took to make. The rest of its history is lost in the mists of time. It was discovered in the bottom of a trunk at the Moss Landing Antique Fair in 1992.
One intricately quilted piece is called “Conventional Tulip.” Thousands of tiny quilting stitches frame the appliquéd tulips, creating feathered and stippled designs that invite the viewer closer … all while serving the practical purpose of trapping air in the quilt’s batting to warm the owner. On loan from Joanna Schwilk, this quilt’s history may include origins from San Jose in the early 20th century.
Authentic period apparel from the early 1900s to 1920s is featured this year. These include handmade women’s daily wear, flapper evening dresses and accessories. Elegant items from the Edwardian era would not be out of place at Downton Abbey.
The flapper era screams both “excess” and “optimism.” Some of these items would fit in beautifully at any party at Jay Gatsby’s mansion on Long Island.
What does all this say about us? It is left for each viewer to decide.
This exhibit is a visual treat. There is something for everyone. Don’t miss it.
“Strolling Through the Garden” is open now and runs through Sept. 2.
The Folsom History Museum is located at 823 Sutter St. in Folsom’s Historic District. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $4 adults, $2 teens, free for kids 12 and younger. Free parking is available on the street and at the nearby city garage. For more information call (916) 985-2707.
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