This weekend past was the 33rd Annual Mountain Heirloom Quilt Faire put on by the Independence Hall Quilters of Arnold. In 1976, for the Bi-centennial Celebration, cities and counties across the nation were encouraged to choose projects representative of our colonial past to help celebrate the Bi-centennial. In Calaveras County, the most lasting tribute to that celebration is the Bicentennial Quilt made that year by about 12 women who quilted together at Independence Hall in Arnold.
This amazing quilt was put together with thoughtful consideration for each community in the county, exemplifying the special attribute of that place in 20 blocks. Mark Twain is rendered writing his famous story of the Jumping Frog Of Calaveras County.
Old time firefighters from Mokelumne Hill.
The famous bandit, Black Bart was jailed in San Andreas, the County Seat. The document is readable, it is so finely worked in thread.
Because gold mining is part of our heritage, the blocks were sewn into a background of gold material.
The bald eagle of the United States flies above; the center of the quilt holds a Bear Republic Insignia and the Insignia of the County of Calaveras. All of this took permissions from the artist who designed the Insignia and from the county. What an undertaking; what a successful and beautiful endeavor.
As I reminisced over the various blocks two people were attempting to find the five frogs on the quilt. Four of them are pretty easy, but the fifth one is difficult to find. Who thought to put a bit of mystery into the quilt?
The great part of this affair is that the Independence Hall Quilters formed their group and have become one of the top quilter’s guilds in the nation. They have maintained, over those 33 years, a huge membership that hovers between 250 and 225. Like a family, they work together, socialize, learn new techniques, teach and revel in fabric art.
Their Faire is as unique as they are. Quilts on display can never be repeated. Thus a conservative estimate of 3,300 quilts have been exhibited by countless numbers of quilters over the years. Also unique to this Faire is the antique “heritage” props the men and women of the group arrange to enhance the quilts displayed. There are male quilters, but these men are the husbands who have become involved in the undertaking along with their wives.
The couples enjoy a set-up party; with music and great food. They do the same in reverse as each year the quilts are taken down and their owners come to pick them up. Some come by UPS and are returned the same way.
Besides the quilts and props and parties, the quilters sew a challenge quilt, a raffle quilt and provide multiple quilts for the Ronald McDonald House and Habitat for Humanity. They provide quilts for those in need locally as well. The money they earn from their Faire provides student scholarships. What a wonderful bunch of empowered women. And it all started with a quilt.