The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.

The People News
Special Report






An American Heritage

There is more to a quilt than fabric.

by Alexandra Edwards

When reading the history of the United States of America, we learn about the hardships, the sacrifices and the courage and bravery of our great ancestors. The people who made America what it is today, a leader among nations, both inventive and artistic.

Men, women and children came from around the globe in search of a better life. Striving for that new life was not easy. Early settlers had to build their homes and furniture, provide food and make their own clothing. American women were forced to use whatever fabrics were available when making clothes and linens for the family. It was not unusual for scraps of different materials to be cut and sewn together to make larger more useful pieces of cloth. Eventually this craft became an art producing some of the most unique and beautiful fabrics on earth - fabrics that are highly sort after and collected to this day.

Using the patchwork method and the light of  a burning candle or oil lamp, colorful hand made quilts were sewn to perfection and revered for generations.  These quilts not only reflected months of  laborious hand sewing of hundreds of fragments of cloth but each would tell its own story through the trials and emotions of the sewer. As time passed, every quilt pattern was eventually given a name and used again by other sewers using completely different color and fabric combinations to tell their own

Alexandra Edwards

Quilting class instructor Vicki Fulghum, with students during this year's summer camp at Betty's Quilt Shop


During the War of Independence, patriotic themes were popular, depicting battles, heroes and symbols of the revolution. Memorial quilts were made using clothing of the deceased.

Some of the early names given to quilt patterns were Floral wreath and basket, Grandmother's Basket, Irish Chain, Log Cabin and Eight-pointed Star. Over the years, the traditions of American quilting have been passed along through generations and hundreds of names have been added to the patterns of these delightful works of art.

Here in Bradley County, the art of quilting is active and strong, being kept alive through quilting clubs

and quilt shops. Norma Shrimpsher, owner of Betty's Quilt Shop, opposite the Village Green in Cleveland, and her mother Betty Stansberry, offer a full machine-quilting service, restorations, sales, and quilt classes. Although traditional hand sewn quilting is also available, Norma said that machine quilting is what really helps keep the art of quilting alive, being quicker, easier and more versatile, allowing the quilter to concentrate on being creative. "People who have had family quilt tops tucked away for years are now getting them machine quilted," Shrimpsher said. She told of one customer who recently brought in a quilt top passed down by generations of his

family. The unfinished quilt had been packed away in a trunk for many years. After consulting a fabric expert, it was confirmed it dated from the period of the Civil War.

The shop's Quilt classes are offered each month by instructor Vicki Fulghum, who teaches beginners class  consisting of three 2 hour sessions. The students are taught the basics of quilting using three quilt patterns, Windows in the Attic, Log Cabin and Stack-n-whack. At the end of the course each participant leaves with a fully completed quilt.

Quilting is not just for women, Vickie also teaches kids aged 7-17 each summer in a  Kid's Quilt Camp and recently held her first quilt class for men.  Fulghum, who likes to tell her students "there's no such thing as a perfect quilt, it's only fabric so have fun!" said that she especially likes working with kids during summer recess because they are so enthusiastic. Sadly, one of the students from last year's

kid's quilt camp had passed away, so a foundation has been set up in her name with the proceeds from the sale of raffle tickets and scented candles bearing quilt pattern names,  providing a scholarship to send a child to quilt camp.

Today's quilting  encompasses not only the traditional patchwork quilt, but many other forms of quilting such as rag quilts, miniature quilts, flower pounded fabrics, even fancy fabric bowls made out of colorful patchwork. There's also photo quilting, where photographs of your loved ones can be

scanned, screened and quilted. T-Shirt quilts where the character of a friend or relative can be captured by scanning and sewing together the facing of the shirts they wore. Norma said, "all quilts have a purpose and destination and all have a story." She told of a memory quilt they had sewn for the mother of a soldier who was killed in the Iraq war, by using his uniform, medals and accessories.

Also, here in Cleveland, The Common Threads Quilt Club meet every Monday night to talk quilts and sew. Club member, Pam Mathews

said,  "women need time to talk and quilt together, that was how it was done in the past." The club was formed ten years ago and currently has 24 members. "Quilting is great therapy, if quilts could talk, they would reveal the topics that have been discussed over them," Mathews said. On October 1st and 2nd, The Common Threads Quilt Club will host their 9th Annual Quilt and Craft Show at the Mount Olive Ministry Center on Harrison Pike. Doors open from 8am to 8pm on Friday and 8 to 4 on Saturday. Over 300 quilts from all over East Tennessee are expected to be on display. For the

first time there will be two quilts entered by a male quilter. There will also be local crafts at the show. Admission is just $2.00  and food and refreshments will be available. The proceeds will help keep the heritage of quilt making alive and go to charities supported by the quilt club. The grand door prize will be a hand made quilt sewn by club members.

American quilting is a tradition that should be passed on to future generations. The unique designs and fabric combinations that embody this nation's history and artistic heritage are appreciated as much today as they were in the past. If you don't own and use one of these wonderful fabrics you are missing one of life's simple joys.