Inspired by “Textile Stories” from Alabama Studio Style by Natalie Chanin, 2010 (pages 160–161)
“Much of the social history of early America has been lost to us precisely because women were expected to use needles rather than pens. Yet if textiles are in one sense an emblem of women’s oppression, they have also been an almost universal medium of female expression. If historians are to understand the lives of women in times past, they must not only cherish the Anne Bradstreets and Martha Ballards who mastered the mysterious ways of quill pens, they must also decipher work composed in yarn and thread.” —Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian
For over two decades, Natalie works with collaborators to collect and archive oral histories from quilters and textile workers across the Southeast, in what is now Project Threadways. In 2006, Natalie realizes that these oral histories tell a patchwork story, much like the historic quilts from this region.Through the Textile Story Quilts project, a collection of threadbare, disused, and fraying quilts are lovingly restored. Stories from collected oral histories are embroidered over the repaired sections of the quilts.The Textile Story Quilts, historical artifacts, are displayed at galleries, museums, and stores around the world, preserving the art of quiltmaking and the stories of textile workers. Today, this collection of quilts are available for view at The Factory Store.
Read an entry on Alabama Studio Style, retired from publication in 2020, here.
View more from the Studio Book Series here.
Plan your visit to The Factory here.
Slides 1–2: Textile Story Quilts hanging in the entryway of the Boiler Room during the Alabama on Alabama exhibition with Heath Ceramics, San Francisco, California, 2015, photographs by Rinne Allen (read an entry on the Alabama on Alabama exhibition here)
Slide 4: “Aunt Mag’s Fried Chicken” quilt, embroidered with a recipe and story from Natalie’s maternal great-aunt; “Faye Davis” quilt, embroidered with a story from Faye, who worked with Tee Jays, Project Alabama, and Alabama Chanin, 2008
Slides 5–7: “It Was a Time of Celebration” quilt and details, 2008, photographs by Robert Rausch