Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Quilt exhibit opens at Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum

By Jen Mulson Published: October 7, 2013

Perhaps you don't realize it, but those old quilts laying around the house are historical pieces.

A new exhibit, "A Needle Pulling Thread," recently opened at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, guest curated by Judi Arndt, a local textile aficionado. It's on display through April 19.

"I love the colors, and I love putting puzzles together," Arndt said. A member of the Pikes Peak Weavers Guild, she's made 30-40 quilts.

"We wanted her perspective and her aesthetic sense," said Leah Davis-Witherow, archivist at the museum. "She has a keen eye for fabrics and color."

Arndt searched the museum's databases and discovered it owned more than 300 quilts dating to the 1800s. Among them were some of Arndt's favorites - log cabin and crazy quilts.

They are aptly named. Log cabin quilts are designed with strips of fabric that give them a log cabin look, and crazy quilts are made with multiple blocks of fabrics and scraps.

"These (crazy quilts) are a staff favorite," Davis-Witherow said. "You can read them like a historic document."

All manner of scraps make up quilts, including the temperance quilt stitched by Ida Chambers Melugin, who is the subject of the book, "Quilted All Day: The Prairie Journals of Ida Chambers Melugin." Fabric in the shape of capital Ts makes a recurring pattern in Melugin's quilt. In her diary, which will be on display, she writes about paying her $1 Woman's Christian Temperance Union dues, how many hours she's worked on the quilt and how much she spent on thread.

"Regionality, political and religious beliefs and values are reflected in quilt shows," Davis-Witherow said.

About 25 quilts will be on display. They are all connected to the Springs in some way. Either the women lived here or their relatives did, and they brought the quilts with them when they moved here.

"Judi approaches it from the fabrics, color and textiles," Davis-Witherow said, "and being we're a history museum, we're thrilled to tell the social aspect of it, and what it meant to them and how they put a piece of themselves in each one. For me, what's most exciting is how quilts are a great way to tell these women's stories."

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Contact Mulson at 636-0270.

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