They’re meant to be cozy blankets, but handmade quilts can be valuable works of art and family heirlooms.
The nation’s largest quilt show opens today in Des Moines, drawing some 30,000 quilting enthusiasts from around the country.
Bonnie Browning, an organizer of the American Quilter’s Society National Quilt Show and Contest, says many of the 900 quilts on display will be for sale, but they won’t be cheap.
Browning says: “You could expect to spend anywhere from $800 to $20,000. Part of that just depends on the notoriety of the quilter and if she’s sold her work for a good amount of money.” Browning, a Kentucky native and the author of nine books on quilt-making, says quilting is a wonderful pastime that’s brought her more than 30 years of pleasure — and she’s still learning new techniques.
“One of the fun parts about quilting is, you can do it at any age and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money,” Browning says. “Like in the early days when they recycled fabric, they would take the shirts and cut them up into squares and make them into quilts, we have quilters today who still do that.”
She’s taught quilting and judged quilt contests around the globe, in nations including Australia, Japan and Turkey. Quilting might be associated with older ladies, but Browning says she’s seen remarkable quilts that were made by young men.
Browning says, “The average age of our quilter is probably in her 50s, but the whole industry is working very hard to get new, younger people involved. One of the things that has led to people not doing so much sewing is that we’ve discontinued home economics out of a lot of the school programs.” She says local sewing clubs, quilting guilds and quilt shops are picking up the slack, teaching newcomers the skill. The show runs through Saturday at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines. For more information, visit the American Quilter website .