The little old grandma standing in line ahead of me was clutching tightly to her large stack of quilts. Her adult grand daughter was carefully unfolding each one so that it could receive its random number tag for judging in the Marathon Quilt Show. Every once in a while, grandma would correct her grand daughter on which part of the quilt was up. It was clear that grandma was unabashedly proud of all her hard work and was eager to show it off.
Unlike the big national quilt shows I have attended, the Marathon Quilt Show was a much more laid back and casual affair. Anyone could enter a quilt. No pre-judging. No pre-qualifications. All quilters of all skill levels were warmly welcomed. Drop your quilt off between 10 to 12, and then pick it up when the show was over at 4 PM. Yet despite the fact that the show lasted for only a portion of one day, many quilters drove two to three hours from nearby towns and communities so that they could show off their handy work. By the end of the day, over 100 beautiful quilts were on display in the local community center.
I like going to the big quilt shows, but I really much prefer these smaller, local, guild organized shows. I can appreciate the artistry and complicated craftsmanship of the quilts I see on display at a national show, but it can be hard to relate to those masterpieces. It’s much like looking at a Rembrandt painting – the art is beautiful but I could never do it.
In contrast, the quilts on display at the Marathon Quilt Show felt authentic and doable though no less skillful. These quilts were not designed just for show. These quilts were made to be used as quilts were intended to – to cover a bed, to warm a lap, to give comfort to a child, or to brighten a dreary day with a riot of bright colors. The love in every stitch and the pride in every design was palpable. And each quilt undoubtedly came with its own story – like the story of the quilt made so proudly by Jan Hartman.
Jan had learned to quilt from her mother-in-law who used to make as many as 60 quilts a year, all of which she donated. Jan’s mother also sewed, making Jan’s dresses as she was growing up. It was with vintage fabric that had once belonged to her mother that Jan made the quilt she displayed in the show. And now Jan takes her turn to pass on her knowledge as she teaches her grand daughter the art of quilting. The quilt than Jan made provides a connection to her mother that she can share with her grand daughter, a tangible connection that would otherwise be impossible.
I love to travel and I love to quilt, so when I can combine the two as I did with my trip to Marathon and the Big Bend area of Texas, I feel like a kid in a candy store. Experiencing a local quilt show in a destination I don’t know gives me a glimpse into the creative soul of the community. The fabrics, the patterns and the colors all tell a story. Big or small, bright or drab, the quilts and the quilters who create them leave a loving legacy that describes their time and place – a legacy that warms and comforts and links generations together.
Thanks for visiting.
Please note that my visit to the Big Bend area was hosted by Visit Big Bend but all content is my own.