Museum opens potpourri of creepy, crazy quilts

Are you ready for a walk down the dark side of quilting? In this infamous collection of macabre quilts and ephemera, a light is shone into the dark cobweb-covered corners of textile arts. It is Midnight in the Garden of Quilts, so prepare yourself for a stroll along the ghostly path where you will see mourning quilts, coffin drapes, and quilts of presidential assassination. There are critter quilts and quilts from the headlines, and the oxymoronic “Creepy Crib Quilts,” all in this visiting exhibit of the Polly Mello Collection.
Museum curator Gloria Comstock has unearthed some treasures from the vault – crazy quilts – to complement the Mello collection. Popular throughout the late 1800s, the labor-intensive style of “crazy quilts” features small and irregularly-shaped pieces of fabric. Exotic blends of velvet, silk, and satin are common, embellished with lace, ribbons, and beads. (These quilts aren’t called “crazy” without a reason.) Early on, crazy quilting was a national fashion among upper-class, urban women who took full advantage of the array of fabric available from the newly-industrialized textile mills. Over time, people in rural areas and small towns picked up on the style, though they preferred sturdier and less-expensive fabrics and employed fewer decorative embellishments.
Southwest Virginia, long-known for its artisan crafts and Appalachian quilt-making talents, shines in A Potpourri of Quilts: The Floyd Quilt Guild. This visiting exhibit, curated by Karin Tauber, displays some of Virginia’s finest quilting talent paying tribute to time-tested styles and techniques, exploring the diversity of fiber art, and engaging new trends as they emerge. These quilters share a dedication to the integrity of construction while pursuing their own unique and personal creativity.
This trio of exhibits will welcome Museum visitors from Sept. 20 through Dec. 17, 2016. Admission is $7/general, $5/students age 5 and up, free/children under 5 and members. The Museum will be closed Thanksgiving Day, but otherwise will have regular hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. The Virginia Quilt Museum (301 S. Main Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22801; 540-433-3818) is a participant in the Blue Star Museum program.

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