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Quilts: Telling stories with fabric

On cold days, they warm you. In the summer, they serve as the perfect picnic table. They’re a conversation piece while they’re being made, and years later, they become irreplacable heirlooms.
March marks National Quilt month, which celebrates the rich traditions of quilts and quiltmaking. And at Fellowship Quilters in downtown Jonesborough, shop owner Angie Harris has plenty of quilts that hold their own unique places in history.
“This lap quilt was made in 1895,” said Harris of a Victorian ‘Crazy quilt’ that has been in one family for 115 years. “It was almost like a woman’s resumé in that period of time. They put everything they knew into it.”
At last count, there were more than 30 different embroidery stitches in the quilt, which also incorporates an eight-point star pattern, showing the woman’s artistic abilities.
“When your suitor came to call, this is what you showed him,” Harris said. “It meant you were a lady and could stay in every day and work on the quilt. You weren’t outside working in the fields. They showcased the lady’s skills, and this lady was quite a skilled quilter.”
Worked in maroon, black and gold velvet with a cream satin ribbon rosette in the center, the quilt is appraised at $1,250 today. The quilt might be the oldest item in the downtown Jonesborough consignment shop, but it’s certainly not the only item.
In fact, quilts cover most of the wall space in the shop. Some are old, some are new, but all bring to mind days spent around the quilting frame, with conversation accompanying sharp needles flying in and out of colorful fabrics.
Many women — and even some men — have returned to the old art of quilting as a way to express their creativity, and to enjoy the fellowship of other quilters.
The Appalachian Heritage Quilt Guild meets regularly in Boones Creek, and now at Fellowship Quilters as well. The group started in August 2008 with just a dozen members and has since grown to more than 65 members. “Quilting is huge in this area and is only growing in the number of younger women becoming interested,” Harris said. “We are rich in this area with quality quilt shops, events, teachers as well as beginning and lifelong quilters.”
Fellowship Quilters is located at 105 Fox Street in Jonesborough.
For information about quilting classes and guild meetings, visit www.fellowshipquilterstn.com.