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KNOXVILLE — Quilts are often passed down through generations as family heirlooms, but generally little is known about where or why the quilt was made.

Quilt historian and expert Merikay Waldvogel will speak and offer information and design insights about guests’ quilts at the University of Tennessee from 7-9 p.m. March 7, at the McClung Museum Auditorium.

Waldvogel is one of the foremost experts on quilts and quilting in the country. Her presentation includes stories about the art form and a slideshow of patterns, fabric and quilt examples. She also will speak about the Appalachian influence in quiltmaking and bring several pieces from her own collection, some dating back to the 19th century.

Guests are encouraged to bring their quilts and quilting pieces for Waldvogel to examine. Similar to the television show “Antiques Road Show,” she can determine certain facts about the quilt through an examination. Waldvogel can approximate a quilt’s age, verify the pattern and fabrics used and offer suggestions for care.

“Colors and fabrics change like fashions and trends so that can help date quilts,” said Waldvogel. “In the 1880s, brown was very big. During World War II, there was a lot of red, white and blue.

“Quilts also reflect fashion, migration patterns and immigration. If many dresses were made from silk, once they wear out, you start seeing those fabrics in quilts. Also, as nationalities migrated, they would incorporate color trends for their art into those quilts,” she said.

During past lectures, Waldvogel has seen quilts with historical significance of which the owners were unaware. “In a small town outside of Lynchburg, Virginia, someone brought in an absolutely pristine quilt from the 1820s. It had been packed away unopened until I looked at it,” said Waldvogel. “The quilt was probably 100 ft. by 100 ft. and the maker had used thousands of pieces of fabric in the quilt.

“Another time, a woman brought a quilt that contained a piece of an American flag carried into battle by a Civil War soldier,” she said.

Waldvogel is a well-known author and lecturer on quilts and quilting history. She has written or co-written seven books on the topic and has presented more than 15 exhibitions at museums or shows.

Waldvogel bought her first quilt in Chicago during the 1970s as an art piece. After that first quilt, she became an avid collector of quilts and student of the piecing methods and origins. She now owns more than 150 quilts.

The event is sponsored by UT’s Ready for the World initiative and the Commission for Women, in celebration with Women’s History Month. Ready for the World’s programs are chosen to expose students to aspects of another culture. This academic year’s emphasis is on Appalachian culture and its influence. Other events during the Appalachian semester include the AniKituhwa traditional Cherokee dancers and a film series about the lives of Appalachian people in October and November.

In addition to the lecture, two films will be shown at Hodges Library in March — “Hearts and Hands: The Influence of Women and Quilts on American Society,” at 12:30 and 1:35 p.m. March 6; “The Quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend,” at 11 a.m. and 12:40 p.m.; and “The Quilts of Gee’s Bend” at 12:05 p.m. All movies will be shown in room 251 of the library.

For more information on the “Quilts!” program, visit


Deb Haines, Commission for Women,
Beth Gladden, (865) 974-9008 or