THESE QUILTS COVER A LARGE FAMILY – Jim Tharpe, right, explained the history of this “wedding quilt,” made at the turn of the 20th century, perhaps by a great aunt. Visitors packed the La Conner museum’s third floor gallery for the opening of the exhibit “Caldwell, Love & Hartsfield Family of Quilters.” – Photo by Ken Stern
Folks attending Saturday’s open house for the new exhibit “Caldwell, Love & Hartsfield Family of Quilters” at the Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum were able to hear about the 170 years of history and the five generations of women in Jim Tharpe’s family who made and stored the 12 quilts on display. Tharpe, from Seattle, acted as host and curator. He called the oldest quilt “the most important.” It was stitched in the 1850s by Ms. Molly, held as a slave in Tennessee. Tharpe explained that because she was favored by the owner, she received quality materials and supplies. “It has more character than the others,” Tharpe told visitors. “Emotionally, this one has far more meaning to me.” She bore two children by her owner. Saturday Tharpe was generous with his time and family’s stories. The red “marriage quilt,” also at the top of the stairs, was worn by an ancestor to signify her pending marriage. Another piece, stitched together by descendants in the 1930s and ‘40s, had its squares made in the 1860s by an ancestor who “was required to carry something while walking through town,” because slaves needed to be on an errand to be in alone in public spaces, Tharpe explained. Tharpe shared stories as he moved from quilt to quilt. At 4 p.m. the third fall exhibit space was full, the crowd primarily female. He told them “When I look at this, I look at not only quilts” but his family’s history. This is the first time the collection has been exhibited in its entirety. The exhibit includes family photographs and historical context. It is open through April 28. More information: qfamuseum.org/exhibits.html, 360-466-4288.