Those who love the homespun beauty of quilts have a feast in store, as seven local arts and cultural institutions join in a unique collaboration to form the Norwalk Quilt Trail, a series of exhibits from May through mid-November in Fairfield County, Connecticut.
The Quilt Trail spotlights 100 quilts made and collected in Norwalk. Together, the colorful quilts tell the story of the life and the changing fortunes of this area, from the early 1800s to the maritime era in the mid-1850s to 1900s machine age to the present.
The settings for the exhibits also represent many eras, from the Rowayton Historical Society's Pinkney House (c. 1820) to the Stepping Stones Museum for Children, which opened in 2000. The full list includes the Norwalk Historical Society, the Norwalk Museum, Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum, the Sheffield Island Lighthouse, and the SoNo Switch Tower Museum. Related exhibits will be presented at City Hall and local libraries. Each exhibit has a story to tell.
A VARIETY OF THEMES
A Common Thread: Family History Told through Quilting at the Rowayton Historical Society illustrates how quilts chronicled family life, telling stories of family love, loss and community in embroidered, patchwork and appliqué quilts, including a signature quilt from one of Norwalk's oldest families, the Raymonds. The influences introduced during the boom years of Norwalk's oystering and shipping trade can be seen in a nineteenth century red and white Hawaiian quilt. Two nineteenth century ribbon quilts made from hatbands, ribbons and clothing tags manufactured in the factories of Norwalk represent the changes wrought by the machine age, while yo-yo quilts from the 1930's show the mood during the period after World War I. (May 15-November 11 www.rowaytonhistoricalsociety.org or 203-831-0136).
The Norwalk Historical Society will show Collected & Cherished: Quilts made and collected in Norwalk featuring quilts made from 1850 to 1950, including log cabin designs in silk, baskets-and-wreath designs in cotton. Of special interest from Norwalk's early seafaring days is the Mariner's Compass quilt designed by a sea captain, Charles Selleck, and pieced by his wife Samantha in 1860. Six of the Society's own rare quilts have been restored, thanks to a grant from the Coby Foundation and Gail Wall. (May 14-October 10. www.norwalkhistoricalsociety.org or 203.846.0525)
The Craze of Crazy Quilts, a display of a style popular in the latter 19th century, is on view in the Music Room of the 1864 Lockwood-Mathews House (May 14-October 16; www.lockwoodmathewsmansion.com or 203-838-9799), while Against the Elements: Keeping Warm at the Lighthouse at the Sheffield Lighthouse displays vintage quilts from private collections along with three quilts that are permanently on display in bedrooms in the 10-room 1868 lighthouse to show what life was like for the families of 19th century light keepers. (weekends May 28-June 26, daily June 27-September 5; www.seaport.org or 203-838-9444).
The charming Quilts Made by Norwalk Children from the 1970s to Today will be on display at the Stepping Stones Museum for Children (June 30-October 10; 203-899-0606 or steppingstonesmuseum.org) while Trains, Planes and Automobiles, featuring quilts with transportation themes showing the impact of transportation technology on American life will be at the SoNo Switch Tower Museum. The museum is housed in the original Signal Station 44, built in 1896 (May 14-October 30; http://www.westctnrhs.org or 203- 246.6958.
More information on the exhibits can be found at www.norwalkquilttrail.org. For information about other nearby events a free color guide to attractions, lodging and dining in Fairfield County, contact the Western Connecticut Convention and Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, (860) 567-4506, www.visitwesternct.com.