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Americus club’s quilts aren’t just for warmth

Journal and Courier, June 24, 2015

Tom Shafer

What can 25 cents buy you in today’s economy? The answer is a yearlong membership in the Americus Quilting Club!

Established in March 1915, the original 13 members formed this group to produce quilts to be sold in order to help finance the Americus Union Church. They were quilters for hire and eventually held quilt raffles. The club is the second oldest active quilt club in the United States and the oldest active group in Indiana.

Their purpose changed over time from just helping the Americus Union Church to also helping the local community, including Lafayette and Tippecanoe County. Currently they donate to the Lafayette Urban Ministry, Salvation Army, Special Olympics, Wabash Center and Women’s Shelter, as well as other special local needs.

In the United States quilt making was a common practice in the late 18th century. A long time before European settlers came to the New World however, people used padded fabrics for bedding and clothing. Early American quilts were strictly utilitarian in the sense that they provided warm bed covers. They were also used to help keep out the cold by being hung over doors and windows.

Unlike several of the more contemporary fabric wall art exhibits that I have written about in the past, local gallery goers will enjoy a more traditional approach to the current work in the museum’s galleries. The majority of the designs presented are geometric repeating patterns such as the Americus Quilt Club’s “Double Wedding Ring” quilt.

In 1928 Capper’s Weekly first published the “Double Wedding Ring” pattern. Concerning that pattern Robert Bishop wrote, “When some good but unknown man conceived the idea of a double wedding ring ceremony it gave his wife an equally good idea. She worked two circles into a double wedding ring quilt.”

A more personal statement appears in Carolyn Kolb’s “Memory Quilt 1915 – 2015.” This hand-pieced and hand-quilted braided border work is a tribute to the Americus Quilt Club. The bright multi-colored geometric spool pattern on the large quilt is perfectly balanced and is bordered by black fabric that frames the piece. Kolb has added a smaller square floral decorated fabric to the middle of the upper quarter of the quilt. The black stitched outline of the Americus Union Church is displayed in the middle of the square.

This family friendly exhibit is colorfully joyful and can be appreciated by all ages.

Shafer provides insight about art exhibits in Greater Lafayette. Email him at orieshafer@hotmail.com

If you go

What: Continuing the Thread: Americus Quilt Club Centennial

When: Through Sept. 6

Where: The McDonald and Shook Galleries at The Art Museum of Greater Lafayette, 102 S. 10th St.

Contact:http://www.artlafayette.org or 765-742-1128

Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily