Above: This quilt, “Enough for Everyone,” was made of food packaging salvaged from the Atlanta Community Food Bank by Margaret Williams of Tucker. Part of the “A Thread Runs Through It’ exhibit at the Southeastern Quilt & Textile Museum, it symbolizes that the food bank is a thread that connects people who have something with people who need something. Photo by Southeastern Quilt & Textile Museum.

A renovated historic cotton warehouse in Carrollton, Ga. is a fitting place for a museum that not only exhibits and interprets the heritage of quilting but is also a breeding ground for future generations of quilters.

The Southeastern Quilt & Textile Museum, which opened in 2012, attracts nationally touring exhibitions and visitors from across the country and beyond. The museum offers a wide range of educational opportunities, including quilting expos, lectures, classes for adults and children, and summer camps that usually end up with waiting lists.

Marilyn Hubbard, president of the board of directors of the Southeastern Quilt & Textile Museum, discusses the history of some of the quilts in a recent museum exhibit, Marti Michell’s Antique Quilts Collection. Photo by Jay Luzardo/Times-Georgian.

Marilyn Hubbard, president of the museum’s board of directors, said quilts give people another way to create and enjoy art. Quilting can do everything from “satisfying someone who just wants to have a pretty decoration for their home or to put on their bed…to being a way for people to express basic human emotions,” Hubbard said. “Quilts can be quite powerful works of art.”

An upcoming exhibit features quilts that sprang from emotions. Beginning April 5, the museum will host the nationally touring “Sacred Threads Exhibition of Quilts Expressing Life’s Journey: Joy, Inspiration, Healing, Grief and Peace.” In a multisensory experience, museum goers can dial the code on each quilt on their cell phones to hear the spiritual journey of that quilt’s creator.

‘A Thread Runs Through It’

The museum’s current exhibit, hanging through April 25, is “A Thread Runs Through It.” It’s described this way: “A thread runs through fabrics, conversations, families or ideas. Threads are what remain when everything unravels—perhaps as a frayed edge or a tenacious connection.” Presented by Studio Art Quilt Associates members from the Georgia/South Carolina region, the exhibit is a juried show displaying the work of 19 artists.

“From quilts that look more like paintings to a quilt made from onion bags and scraps of food packaging at the Atlanta Food Bank, you will see a varied collection,” Hubbard said.

The museum’s previous exhibit featured about 30 quilts that are all at least 100 years old from the collection of Atlanta area resident Marti Michell. Michell was recently announced as the 2020 inductee into the Quilters Hall of Fame in Marion, Indiana. She will be inducted July 18 during a three-day celebration of the art of quilting that annually draws about 500 people, according to a Hall of Fame representative.

Among the museum’s own antique quilts is one made in the 1860s-70s from a wool Civil War uniform that was cut up and patched with other heavy material to provide warmth. Hubbard said the quilt was donated by a 99-year-old woman who arrived at the museum in a wheelchair, saying she wanted to personally present the quilt her grandmother had made from her grandfather’s uniform.

“So it represents this pointed desperation that was going on at that time, plus the reality of life and subsistence,” she said. “But the other thing is quilts can bring such joy and express such meaning to people.”

‘I can’t believe this is here!’

The Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum is a vibrant space with a research library that holds more than 2,500 volumes; a gift shop featuring quilts, crafts and souvenirs; and conference space shared with others in its county-owned building. Hubbard said the 1,500-square-foot facility will soon undergo modifications allowing for new library space and a dedicated teaching area that can accommodate 10 sewing machine stations as well as be used for conference and event space.

The museum plans to offer classroom usage to the local West Georgia Quilt Guild, which meets in Carrollton, and to home schoolers who can be taught art, measurement and geometry through quilting. Hubbard said museum members have taught quilting in math classes at local schools, and each summer the museum offers a two-week camp that teaches up to about 30 students. Each student has their own quilting mentor.

Throughout the year, the museum continues to preserve history, celebrate current trends in quilting and meet its public.

“We’ve had people from every state. We’ve had people from 15 foreign countries,” Hubbard said. “There’ve been a lot of people who say, ‘I can’t believe this is here!’”

One of the guests who left a lasting impression on Hubbard visited the museum during a previous Sacred Threads exhibition. The woman was on her way from a business trip in Columbus, Ga. to the Atlanta airport and said she just wanted to “swing by” to see the exhibit. But instead of rushing through, she became immersed in Sacred Threads.

After a while, she turned to Hubbard and said, “I bet these people experience a lot of healing in doing these quilts.”

“Yes, I think, probably so,” Hubbard replied.

“Well, I’d like to try this because I sure need a lot of healing,” the woman said, as she left the museum and headed for home.

Find out more

The Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum is located at 306 Bradley Street, Carrollton 30117.

The museum is open Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Admission is $5.

Info: southeasternquiltandtextilemuseum.org or 770-301-2187.

Donna Williams Lewis

Donna Williams Lewis a freelance writer based in Atlanta. She previously worked as an editor and journalist for the Atlanta Journal Constitution.