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Community quilt project shows living history of Abingdon
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Community quilt project shows living history of Abingdon

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ABINGDON, Va. — Two Abingdon art organizations are piecing together the fabric of the community, one stitch at a time.

The Arts Depot and Holston Mountain Artisans are working collaboratively on a community quilt project that will take many hands — young and old — to complete.

Members of the community are invited to drop by The Arts Depot during August to add a few stitches to the quilt, an intergenerational project that is helping connect the community during a time of crisis.

Karen Moore, arts administrator at The Arts Depot, wants everyone to feel welcome to participate in the project even if they have never sewn a stitch before.

“It’s a way for everyone to be part of the project and to be able to say, ‘I helped put this quilt together.’

“It’s being made. It’s a living history project,” said Moore.

All ages are encouraged to contribute to the community quilt, entitled, “Appalachian Stitches: A Living History Project.”

The quilt, designed with autumn colors, will be set up on a frame in the spacious Founder’s Room where social distancing can be practiced.

Visitors can take part in completing the community quilt between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Needles and thread will be available for visitors to use. All fabrics for the quilt were purchased locally.

“The project is meant to bring people together. It’s a history project for people who want to learn more traditional Appalachian crafts,” said Moore. “It’s a nice way for people to gather informally and learn something new and just have fun.”

Women often gathered years ago for quilting bees, she said. They would eat, sing and tell stories while making quilts. Appalachian women made quilts to keep their families warm, and they passed their patterns down to the next generation.

“Of course, these days, quilting is a craft enjoyed by many people. We want everyone who wants to participate to do so.”

It’s that rich history that prompted the Abingdon organizations to build a quilt that takes layers of community involvement.

Abingdon resident Mary Warner, an accomplished quilter for more than 20 years, created the queen-sized quilt top and has basted the three layers together in preparation for the quilting stage.

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“It’s the hand-quilting that takes a lot of time, and that will require the work of community members. Once it is completed, I will put binding around the edges and include a label on the quilt,” said Warner.

Warner is available by appointments to offer guidance to volunteers who want to help with the quilt but lack the experience.

The center of the quilt features an appliqué designed by weaver Nancy Garretson, a resident artist at The Arts Depot. The Appalachian design includes water, mountains, deer and trees. A pine tree design covers the edges of the quilt.

“Appalachian Stitches: A Living History Project” is being made possible by Dominion Energy’s ArtStars Program, which recognizes five art organizations in Virginia each year.

The Arts Depot was awarded a $10,000 grant to support their cultural education programs.

The Abingdon art gallery was among organizations in Alexandria, Lexington, Virginia Beach and Richmond to receive the 2020 honor.

The Arts Depot was chosen based on their education programs that teach weaving, collage, innovative watercolors, acrylics, oil painting, quilting, carving and beading. The organization also works with students with special needs in the area.

According to Moore, The Arts Depot is using a portion of the grant money to purchase supplies for the community quilt. The remainder of the grant money will be used to further art experiences in the area.

As a related event, The Arts Depot had planned quilting bee classes for youth this month, but concerns about the pandemic caused the classes to be canceled.

Once completed, the community quilt will be displayed at Holston Mountain Artisans, where it will be auctioned in the fall.

For more information on the “Appalachian Stitches: A Living History Project,” call The Arts Depot at 276-628-9091.

Wednesday Art Gathering

In conjunction with the “Appalachian Stitches: A Living History Project,” The Arts Depot is offering a learning session on quilting for their next Wednesday Art Gathering (WAG) August event.

Longtime quilter Mary Warner from Holston Mountain Artisans will teach a one-time quilting lesson from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Aug. 12 at The Arts Depot.

Warner will provide a lesson on the hand-quilting method of quilting.

Adults and children as young as 10 are welcome to participate in the event.

No experience is necessary; the fee is $20. Interested participants should preregister by calling 276-628-9091 by Aug. 10.

Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at news@washconews.com.

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