We adore the Quilt Alliance – their mission is truly one of the driving forces in our industry. The organization ‘brings together the creative, scholarly, and business worlds of quiltmaking to celebrate and preserve our shared quilt heritage and inspire today’s quilters.’ They make it their business to tell all the stories, herald the creative minds, and create new partnerships. What could be better than that?
We’ve long-supported Quilters Take Manhattan and were thrilled to hear about Quilt Story Road Show, kicking off in 2018. We’re joined today by Amy Milne, Executive Director for the Quilt Alliance. We asked her to share her story – why this new initiative excites her and what it means to her as both a key member of the Quilt Alliance team and as a quilter. She’ll also share some info about the Road Show, the fundraising that is currently in progress, and why we should all be just as excited about this as she is!
Make sure to read through to the end to learn how you can help turn this exciting initiative into a reality, while entering-to-win some fabulous Aurifil prizes along the way.
Long before I joined the quilting community as director of the Quilt Alliance, I had “archival tendencies.” My mother and grandmother taught me to sew as a child, and even then, I was a sucker for fabric and notions. I loved going through the crinkly cellophane rickrack packages, the brightly colored zippers in their mod little envelopes and bright thread on wooden spools. When my grandmother passed away, I inherited her large pink sewing box full of notions, thread and tools. As a teenager, I used elastic, trims and buttons from the box when I was making garments for myself, but I don’t remember giving any thought to the history of these items.
I do remember the moment when the box became a Collection to me, and when I realized that it was important. I was a young working mom with very little time to sew. On a mission to put together a Halloween costume, I opened the sewing box and rooted around looking for a needle and thread, and a little epiphany washed over me. Every item in the box had the same smell that evoked the same memory—sitting with my grandmother in her sewing room/office and watching her work. I had a treasure—pure emotional and historical gold, and a time machine of sorts. My grandmother had sewn with this thread and this needle for herself, for my mother and her brothers and now I was using these same tools to take care of my family.
What I wouldn’t give to have a recording of my grandmother talking about her love of sewing! I want to know what it was like to sew her own clothes, raise four children with my grandfather, a family doctor who still made house calls. I want to know what dress she bought the tiny glue-on rhinestones for and where she wore it. I want to know why she never quilted, even though her sister-in-law made at least one set of quilt blocks (that I made into pillows when I was ten—see below). I’d ask her why all the unused zippers?!
The memories and connections we have to our ancestors can be powerful—especially if things anchor them. Objects like quilts are historical documents– they tie us not only to the maker, but also to the place, the culture, and the life and times of that maker. Quilts bring together materials, tools, artistry, intention and utility in a tangible creation. When the maker is here to tell us the story of the quilt, we can make a full circle from maker to object to story and back. But when we only have the object with no accompanying history, no matter how beautiful or enchanting it may be, we are left with two missing pieces: who made this quilt and why? And when the object itself begins to fade away, we lose the thread of that story completely.
The Quilt Alliance has a singular vision: No More Anonymous Quilters.
The nonprofit Alliance has spent the last 25 years developing solo and partner projects that aim to document, preserve and share the rich history of quilts and their makers. Quilters’ SOS- Save Our Stories is a grassroots oral history project started in 1999 that records the stories of quiltmakers. The interviews are archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and shared on the Quilt Alliance website. The newest Alliance documentation project is called Go Tell It at the Quilt Show! and anyone can use the simple format to record stories of “one person talking about one quilt in front of one camera for three minutes or less—another story saved!” See my own Go Tell It! video here:
In 2018, the Quilt Alliance will launch its biggest effort yet to help Americans document their quilt stories. The Quilt Story Road Show education and outreach tour is accepting bookings now for 2018-2020. Guilds, quilt shows, exhibitions, museums, historical societies, shops or any community group can sign up to be a spot on the road show. Our lecture includes not only educational material on labeling and other ways to document quilts (photo, video, text), but also information on why historians, collectors and museum professionals put such a high value on documentation. We also offer full and half day workshops where groups can learn how to start their own Go Tell It! project or have our staff conduct the recordings. It’s a great way to seize the day and document the quilters in your community before the opportunity fades away.
We need your help to save quilt stories.
The Quilt Alliance has received a $15,000 challenge grant to launch the Quilt Story Road Show program. We need to match these funds, dollar for dollar, by the end of December in order to fuel the first stage of our traveling education and outreach program. Funds will be used to:
- Recruit and train our Quilt Alliance Ambassador team.
- Create outreach kits to guilds who want a DIY (Do It Yourself) version of the program.
- Streamline our video editing process for Go Tell It at the Quilt Show!
Please visit this webpage to make a contribution of any amount to help us put the wheels on the bus!
Thanks so much to Amy for sharing her story! We are so excited about all of this and hope that you’ll join us in supporting the efforts.
SUPPORT + GIVEAWAY
To add a little incentive, we’ll be giving away an Aurifil thread prize pack to one random winner for every $1000 raised. Click here or on the image below to learn how you can both help and enter-to-win. We’ll announce winners here starting at $4000 all the way up to the $15,000 goal. We’ll email winners directly as well. This is open to all of our friends, worldwide.