Quilts narrate history of school

Museums across Central Texas have opened their doors for the Great Bell County Quilt Crawl.  Currently in the second week, it is a county-wide exhibit of creative and historical quilts. It runs until Feb. 18.

On Jan. 21, the university hosted the Crawl, and retired professor Dr. Edna Bridges gave a workshop on basic quilting techniques. She invited children to channel their ingenious side and taught them how to create fabric yo-yos. The children then used the yo-yo’s to make hair bows, clothing accessories and Christmas decorations.

“It gives them something to do in their pastime besides playing video games and texting,” Bridges said. “They’ll always have it; it carries over into adulthood.  I get so much satisfaction from making and giving crafts, and I hope it gives these kids the same satisfaction.”

The museum also displays more than 40 exhibits that include quilts, bedspreads, rugs, decorative clowns, handkerchiefs, pillows and crocheted collars. Each display tells a story, and each connects to the university.

Two quilts are emphasized as the museum’s centerpieces. One is a keepsake collage of shirts entitled “UMHB T-shirt Quilt” while the other is a family heirloom entitled “9-Patch Touching Stars.” Both are a representation of UMHB’s past and present and are owned by alumnae and grandmother          /granddaughter duo, Nelda Sanders and Kristal Varnell.

The first was made in 2011 by Varnell.  It is a patchwork of T-shirts she acquired during her years in college.

She said, “I just wanted to make something to preserve all my memories,” she said. “I had all these shirts, and I thought that I should just make a quilt from them. It wasn’t hard. If I can do it, anyone can do it.”

Half-way through her studies, Varnell shifted gears and changed her major.

She thought it was important to incorporate that into her masterpiece.

“Even though I didn’t graduate with a nurse’s degree, I was a nurse major my first two years. Here are the purple pockets from my purple scrubs and the white buttons from my lab coat,” she said.

The second quilt, “9-Patch Touching Stars,” was made in 1845 by Mary Sloan. It was a wedding gift for her son, then handed through the generations while being preserved with love and care.

More than 150 years later, it was given to Varnell’s grandmother and 1954 graduate, Nelda East Sanders.

“It was passed down each time to another daughter when she got married,” Sanders said.  “Then it finally came to my brother-in-law’s mother. She gave it to him, and he gave it to us. The stitching  really tells the different texture of that time period. Everything was done by hand, and it gives history of the culture.”

Sanders continued to explain that because the university was  officially chartered the same year the quilt was made, she just may have found it a new home.

“I will not continue the tradition and pass it down to my daughters,” she said. “I’ll probably make a donation and leave it in the museum.”

Other area museums exhibiting quilts are Azalee Marshall Cultural Activities Center, Temple; Railroad and Heritage Museum, Temple; Czech Heritage Museum, Temple; Bell County Museum, Belton; Salado Historical Society at the Robertson Plantation, Salado; and Killeen Arts & Activities Center.

Every Saturday a designated museum will host a special activity for children that relates to quilts and quilting.

For more information on the Bell County Quilt-Crawl go to www.quilt-crawl.org.

Author: Nicole Johnson

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