Nothing says comfort like a handmade quilt. These cultural gems are closely associated with Kentuckians; thousands of these pieced, applique, and whole-cloth quilts are safely tucked away in closets or chests, proudly displayed on beds or quilt racks, or exhibited in museums across the Commonwealth. Kentucky’s vintage quilts and their makers are featured in the recently processed Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society (KHQS) Collection found in Manuscripts & Folklife Archives. The 62-box collection houses over 20,000 items. Processing the collection, which started in May, was partially funded by the Society. Click here to see the collection finding aid.
In December 1980, Katy Christopherson and Melzie Wilson convened a meeting in Louisville to consider the establishment of a state-wide organization for quilters. The group voted to establish the KHQS, with three major functions: promote the understanding, appreciation and knowledge of the art and craft of quiltmaking; support and expand the collections and preservation of Kentucky quilts and the records of Kentucky’s quiltmakers and their work; and, undertake activities such as shows, contests and workshops. In January 1981, the fledgling group created a set of by-laws and elected officers and committee chairpersons. The organization’s articles of incorporation were filed with the Secretary of State’s office in April 1981, and by July the organization’s membership had grown from 15 to 105.
KHQS’s first major project was a statewide quilt contest in 1982. This successful effort included a series of seminars on “What Makes a Prize-Winning Quilt.” Since that time, KHQS has offered varied programming, ranging from design seminars, presentations about historical quilts, its popular hands-on workshops at Pleasant Hill, and its annual “Quilter’s Getaway” which has been held in various locations across the state.
KHQS also undertook a project to interview Kentucky quilters about their craft and their product. The grant-funded project, titled “Quilters on File,” allowed a cadre of women to be trained in interviewing techniques prior to conducting field work. The project resulted in 92 interviews captured on cassette tapes as well as a training manual. Auxiliary information and transcripts are sometimes available with the interview.
Surely the most daunting, but useful, project undertaken by KHQS has been a comprehensive registry of vintage quilts made in Kentucky. As of 2011, sixty counties have been surveyed. Each quilt was assigned a unique number, and information was captured about the quilt and its maker and owner. In addition the quilts were photographed. In the early years, black and white photographs were made, but since the introduction of digital photography only color images are taken. To see the registry go to www.khqs.org