Stitch in time: quilt show opens October 7 at Lightner Museum

Artist unknown (India), ‘Soldier’s Quilt (detail),’ 1850-75, Wool, probably from military uniforms with embroidery thread, rickrack, and velvet binding; inlaid, layered-applique, hand embroidered. Image courtesy of the American Folk Art Museum, gift of Altria Group, Inc. Photo by Gavin Ashworth


Artist unknown (India), ‘Soldier’s Quilt (detail),’ 1850-75, Wool, probably from military uniforms with embroidery thread, rickrack, and velvet binding; inlaid, layered-applique, hand-embroidered. Image courtesy of the American Folk Art Museum, gift of Altria Group, Inc. Photo by Gavin Ashworth

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The Lightner Museum will host Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts, an exhibition that will open October 7 and run through January 20, 2023.

An American pastime, quilting was a hobby promoted by museum founder Otto Lightner in his magazine, Hobbies. Writing in the 1940s about his plans for his St. Augustine museum, Lightner envisioned the building “decorated with museum material such as historical quilts, fine needle work, and rich fabrics.”

Like many objects rooted in the everyday, quilts have the capacity to communicate stories about the context in which they were made and used. They represent maps of the quilters’ lives — living records of cultural traditions, rites of passage, relationships, political and spiritual beliefs, landmark events and future aspirations. In the same way, a map is a pocket-sized abstraction of the world beyond what can be seen; in a quilt, a maker’s choice of fabric and design reveals insights into the topography of their world and their place within it.

Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts invites viewers to read quilts as maps, tracing the paths of individual stories and experiences that illuminate larger historic events and cultural trends. Spanning the 19th to the 21st centuries, the exhibition brings together 18 quilts from the collection of the American Folk Art Museum, New York, representing a range of materials, motifs and techniques, from traditional early American quilts to more contemporary sculptural assemblages. The quilts in Handstitched Worlds show us how this too-often overlooked medium balances creativity with tradition, individuality with collective zeitgeist.

Visit the website of the Lightner Museum and see its dedicated page for Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts.