Each October marks the annual quilt show hosted by the Custer County Museum. The museum and research center takes on a whole new look as it becomes draped in quilts of many colors from all over Custer County. Some of the quilts date back to the early 1900s and feature all types of patterns, fabrics, and stories.
Museum Curator Tammy Hendrickson looks forward to the quilt show as a way to not only show off the beautiful quilts, but to also share the community’s talent.
“Quilting is a talent that is still going. But it sure has a lot of the older talents in there, a lot of the embroidery ones are not [seen] as often as you saw them back then,” Hendrickson said.
Piece quilts, scrap quilts, tie quilts, embroidery, crazy patch, and others make up the array of quilts on display. Board member and active museum volunteer Ruth Lindly explained that many quilts were made by grandmothers of families and continue to be handed down as family heirlooms.
The origins of quilting are vast and include various theories of where and how the craft began, but Lindly says regardless, quilting is a craft that has been passed from generation to generation.
“Quilting is an old craft. In fact, the Chinese were the ones that started it. And they started it because the men–when they fought battle–did not have armor because they were not affluent. And their wives made them armor out of fabric, which was stuffed with other fabrics, and that gave them some protection. Not enough to really protect their lives but it was a craft and that craft has been handed down for generations,” Lindly said.
A few items on display include quilts made using treadle sewing machines; machines powered by foot. Hendrickson and Lindly explained that tie quilts were put together using string when there was not enough time to sew a project. Other quilts are made up of various “orphan blocks,” some even hand painted. More or less of the quilts are very old and delicate while others were made more durable for men to sleep with in their work clothes, according to Hendrickson.
The tradition of quilting is a powerful way to honor others and the public is welcome to view the display and learn some fascinating history at the Custer County Museum and Research Center. The museum is operating under its fall/winter hours: Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the square in downtown Broken Bow.