A Quilter’s Tour of Kentucky: The Filson Historical Society

I've always wanted to go on a quilter’s tour. I briefly though about going on a tour of England that was offered through a local fabric shop, but when I saw the price, I quit thinking about it. With price being a limiting factor, I started to think about other possibilities. Then it hit me: why not do my own quilter’s tour of Kentucky?

I knew that The Filson had several quilts in our collection and I've featured some on our blog, but if I’m going to do a tour, I’d love to know what else is out there around the state. I struck gold in our library collection with Quilt Collections: A directory for the United States and Canada. This book, compiled by Lisa Turner Oshins and featuring state commentaries by Barbara S. Bockman, was published in 1987. While the information is a bit out of date (in fact, the phone number for The Filson is not the one we use now), it gave me a jumping-off point to begin my search. Kentucky has quite a few collections listed in the book, and a little bit of internet sleuthing has told me where they are now located and what the visiting hours are for the various institutions. Sadly, the book has not been updated since it was first published, but I highly recommend it if you are interested in viewing any of these collections. Armed with my new-found knowledge, I decided to start right where I was at: The Filson’s Special Collections.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that some of our records in Past Perfect that did not have images had been updated. I was browsing our quilt collection and came across two quilt blocks that were absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, we don’t know much about them other than that they are made of silk and were donated to The Filson in the 1950’s.

From looking at the pictures, these blocks appear to be paper pieced. English Paper Piecing is a technique that involves quilt blocks being formed from fabric that is wrapped around pieces of paper. The most common shape for these blocks is a hexagon, which is what is shown in the images above. Other popular shapes include diamonds, octagons, triangles, and tumblers.

Seven hexagon shapes form a pattern called the Grandmother’s Flower Garden block. This appears to be the type of block that these squares represent. Because I couldn't look at the actual quilt squares in our collection, I decided to stitch up a few of my own to show you what the back side might look like.

This technique is much simpler than it appears. There are a lot of great tutorials out there that teach you about constructing your hexagons (or “hexies,” as I like to call them). I used this tutorial to construct mine, and I found it to be very easy and relaxing.

I had a great time learning a new technique in my quilting and learning a little bit more about a quilt that we have in our collection. I hope to use my new-found knowledge on my next stop in my self-appointed Quilter’s Tour of Kentucky.

Jamie Evans

Jamie Evans is the Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator at The Filson Historical Society. When she isn't working on publications for The Filson, you can find her behind her sewing machine or out on the roads training for her next big race.

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