Column #106

The Airing of the Quilts

Smithville, Texas is a quaint small town (population 3,855) situated on the banks of the Colorado River. For the past several years, its natural charm has been enhanced further on the second Saturday in November with an event known as “The Airing of the Quilts.”

Begun by an enterprising merchant, Jan Rodwick, and an avid quilter, Virginia Ilseng, The Airing of the Quilts is intended to bring visitors and shoppers to the downtown district, while also showcasing the art of quilting.

The town’s Main Street is transformed by a profusion of color and texture as businesses and shop owners hang quilts outside the fronts of their buildings for passersby to admire. While some of the quilts are for sale, many are treasured possessions displayed only for the day.

Homeowners throughout the town also get into the spirit by hanging quilts on porch railings or elsewhere in their yards. Recently, the event has coincided with a homes tour, with featured houses all displaying quilts somewhere on their premises.

Although it has now been given a distinctly modern and unabashedly commercial twist, the act of “airing” quilts has its roots in actual practice.

Traditional bed quilts were frequently heavy, often fragile, and always difficult to clean. Because the process of washing and drying quilts was labor-intensive, time-consuming, and potentially damaging to the materials, quilts were alternatively freshened by placing them outdoors to air out.

Of course Smithville, Texas is only one of many towns hosting an annual Airing of the Quilts celebration. Similar events are held all across the United States in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, Macon County, North Carolina, and Northhampton, Washington to name a very few.

If you’re lucky enough to be in an area that hosts an “airing,” do yourself a favor and go. You’ll be rewarded with a feast for your senses.


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Archived blogs:

Column 149: Rosie’s Redwork
Column 148: The Quilt of Belonging
Column 147: Kanthas—The Quilts of Bangladesh
Column 146: Patterns
Column 145: Suzy on Carolyn Mazloomi's Groundbreaking Quilt Exhibit
Column 144: Texas Community Marks Juneteenth Sesquicentennial with History Quilts
Column 143: Maya Embroidered Patchwork
Column 142: Huipil Patchwork Quilts
Column 141: Tom Korn’s Military Medal Quilts
Column 140: The Return of Double Knits!
Column 139: Passage Quilts
Column 138: Home of the Brave Quilts
Column 137: The Story of Fabric Yo-Yos
Column 136: Christmas in July
Column 135: Trifles
Column 134: Deaf Initiatives—Communicating Through Quilts
Column 133: My Betty Boop Quilt
Column 132: Maura Grace Ambrose
Column 131: All You Need Is Love
Column 130: Chicken Linens
Column 129: The Quilted Chuppah
Column 128: Patchwork Around the World: Yoruba Dance Costumes
Column 127: The Bowers Co-Op Quilts
Column 126: Fon Appliqué and Haitian Voodoo Flags
Column 125: The Quilt Garden at The North Carolina Arboretum
Column 124: Harriet Powers and Handful’s Mauma
Column 123: Quilters de Mexico
Column 122: An Appliquéd Surprise
Column 121: Matisse’s Fabric Stash
Column 120: Soogan—The Cowboy’s Quilt
Column 119: The Ron Swanson Quilt
Column 118: HClarkdale, Georgia—A Thread of History
Column 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
Column 115: All in the Family
Column 114: The Alabama State Quilt
Column 113: Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque
Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery

See other archived columns here

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