Iowa QuiltScape for February 19, 2021

Virtual Iowa Quiltscape Series

February 23rd• Millie Kehrli: Mary Barton’s Textile Legacy

Join us each Tuesday at Twelve for a live program from the Iowa Quilt Museum. Some weeks will focus on our current exhibit, String Theory, while other weeks will focus on various aspects of the quilting landscape (or Quiltscape) in Iowa.

In our February 23rd program, Iowa teacher and quilt historian Millie Kehrli, will introduce us to Mary Barton.

Mary’s desire to collect, understand, and share resulted in one of the most comprehensive collections of quilts, costumes, and fashion plates ever assembled and donated to public institutions. Mary was one of the first to collect both clothing and women’s magazines as a means to provide a reliable way of documenting and dating quilts by the fabrics they contained. Her meticulous notes and countless scrapbooks have made important comparative studies possible.

In 1949, at the time of her grandmother’s death, Mary’s mother gave her some family quilts; this was the start of Mary’s quilt collection and her interest in the textiles they contained. In 1967, she purchased her first quilt at a local farm auction. Concerned about some fine Iowa quilts bringing high bids at auction and leaving the state for distant eastern museums, she recognized the need to save as much as she could of Iowa’s heritage- and “save” she did. She collected quilts, quilt tops, quilt fragments, blocks, fabric scraps, quilt patterns, periodicals, fashion illustrations, books, newspaper articles, mail-order catalogs, family record books, diaries, and photographs. The numerous notebooks she compiled are now housed in Iowa public institutions to be used and enjoyed.

Photo courtesy of the State Historical Society of Iowa.

In 1968, inspired by her research and her collection of antique fabric, Mary began her Heritage Quilt, showing the immigration of her ancestors from England and Germany and their migration trail from North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and New York westward to Iowa. An original design, this quilt features a symbolic eagle in the center with four churches in the corners, to show religious freedom, and rows of houses and log cabins- their new homes in Iowa. The pioneer women and children wear dresses made of antique fabric and walk among a variety of miniature quilt patterns. After seven years the finished top was quilted by a group at St. Peti’s Lutheran Church in Story City, Iowa in time for the 1976 bicentennial celebrations.Mary Barton stepped onto the national stage that year, receiving honorable mention at the National Bicentennial Quilt Contest held in Warren, Michigan. In addition, this masterpiece won a blue ribbon at the Iowa State Fair and was later selected as one of America’s 100 Best Quilts of the 20th Century. She later made a number of the other quilt tops, often reproductions of her favorite antique quilts.

Mary was soon invited to lecture at some of the earliest quilt conferences, including the Kansas Quilt Symposium in 1978 and the Missouri Quilt Symposium in 1980. She served on the planning committee for Iowa’s first statewide quilt gathering, the 1983 Heirloom to Heirloom Quilt Conference, where she set up an innovative Study Center, which she described as “the largest collection of comparative dating helps ever opened to a quilt conference group.” The Study Center included quilts and tops as well as scrapbooks, fabrics, and quilts arranged by decade from 1800 to 1940. In 1984, Mary Barton installed a similar study area at the Continental Quilting Congress in Arlington, Virginia, where she was honored by induction into The Quilters Hall of Fame.

While Mary Barton found her many accomplishments rewarding, she knew that the lasting legacy of her work was the preservation of quilts and historic textiles and the information she had collected about them. In 1987 and 1988, she presented her famous Heritage Quilt to the Iowa State Historical Museum, along with a major gift of sixty-seven quilts and tops, her numerous fabric sample muslin panels, and countless notebooks about nineteenth-century textiles. Mary also donated more than one hundred quilts to the Living History Farms near Des Moines. These gifts form the core of their exhibits, showing quilts and other textiles in their historic settings. In all, she donated more than two hundred quilts and quilt tops that will be preserved by Iowa organizations as an enduring record of women’s artistic and creative endeavors. As Mary herself put it, “I’m just trying to save things for future historians.”

By Pat L. Nickols for The Quilters Hall of Fame,

To Join the Zoom meeting, click on the following link, or type the Meeting ID into Zoom:
Meeting ID: 943 9573 5155

We will use the SAME meeting link for ALL of our Virtual Iowa Quiltscape sessions – each Tuesday at Twelve. If you have questions about how to join the Zoom meeting, email or call us— or 515-462-5988. To find the full listing of programs, visit the Current Exhibit page on our website.

Here is the schedule for the remaining programs, through March 9th. (We’re going to take a week off for Spring Break, but we’re having so much fun we might just pick them up again after that!)

March 2 – Sujata Shah & Ann Brauer, contributors to String Theory
March 9 – Mary Fons & Jody Sanders, Quilt Publication

Quilting an Anti-Racist Society

Monday • March 1 • 7:00pm
Central Iowa Modern Quilt Guild with
Sarah Trail, Founder of the Social Justice Sewing Academy

Founded in 2017, the Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA) is a youth education program that bridges artistic expression with activism to advocate for social justice. Through a series of hands-on workshops in schools, prisons and community centers across the country, SJSA empowers youth to use textile art as a vehicle for personal transformation and community cohesion and become agents of social change. Many of the young artists make art that explores issues such as gender discrimination, mass incarceration, gun violence and gentrification. The powerful imagery they create in cloth tells their stories, and these quilt blocks are then sent to volunteers around the world to embellish and embroider before being sewn together into quilts to be displayed in museums, galleries and quilt shows across the country. This visual dialogue bridges differences in race, age and socioeconomics and sparks conversations and action in households across the country.

Sarah Trail, founder of the SJSA, will be the featured guest at the Central Iowa Modern Quilt Guild meeting on Monday, March 1st, at 7:00pm. Guests are always welcome at CIAMQG meetings, but visitors are especially encouraged for this presentation. Please use the “Get a Guest Pass” link from the CIAMQG’s webpage to have the Zoom information emailed to you.

We’re committed to bringing you news of quilt events from across the state of Iowa but this event is not hosted by the IQM. If you have any questions about the event, contact the Central Iowa Modern Quilt Guild directly at:

String Theory Exhibit Catalog

Available from the IQM Online Gift Shop

You now have one more way to take in our current exhibit, String Theory: String-pieced Quilts from Past to Present.

We heard several inquiries about an exhibit catalog for our String Theory exhibit and we’re happy to say that we were able to make it happen! The 6″ x 9″ book is 60 pages with full color photos of each quilt in the exhibit and the corresponding exhibit signage written by curator Linzee McCray.

Unlike the virtual gallery walk, you can leave this beautiful book laying on your coffee table, or gift it to a friend (once you’ve taken several looks yourself!)

Share the Iowa Quilt Museum with your friends!

If you’ve been enjoying some of our virtual program, consider scheduling the IQM as a program for your quilt guild, civic group, retirement community or any other interested group. We can share our pre-recorded presentation or even bring you a live program complete with Q&A if you so desire. If you know a program coordinator who is struggling to find material right now, encourage them to contact museum director Megan Barrett to inquire about dates and cost for a virtual program with the IQM!

Phone: 515-462-5988

Tulip Time Quilt Show

May 5th-8th • Pella

If you’re the type that likes to plan ahead (or if you’re just so excited for the thought of spring and getting out of the house again that you can’t stand it) mark you calendar for the annual Tulip Time Quilt Show!

Want a FREE* viewing of our Virtual Gallery Tour?

Become a supporting member of the IQM to get that and more!

When you purchase an annual membership to the Iowa Quilt Museum, you get free admission to the IQM all year long! And right now, that includes a free viewing of our String Theory Virtual Gallery Tour if you’re not able to visit the museum in person.

Annual members also get a free gift with their membership and a 10% discount in our gift shop—yes, online, too! Become a member at the DONOR level ($125) and you also get to take advantage of our membership in the North American Reciprocal Membership (NARM) Association. As a NARM-level member, you get to take advantage of member benefits at over 900 participating museums. That’s a lot of value! And we know you’re dreaming of traveling again just like we are.

In addition to all of the benefits for you, your membership donation will have a big impact supporting the IQM and our mission. It’s been nearly a year since we we started the feel the effects of the pandemic, and we know it will be awhile yet before we see a return to our normal in-person visitor numbers. In the meantime, we’re working to continue providing quality exhibits and programming to quilters across the country in as many ways as we can.

To see a full list of benefits, visit our Membership Page.

Thank you for reading Iowa QuiltScape.
Please share us with a friend!

Iowa QuiltScape is a feature of the Iowa Quilt Museum’s periodical e-newsletter, and will highlight quilting events happening all around the state. The goal of Iowa QuiltScape is to provide a central place for Iowa quilting organizations to share upcoming events and help quilters and quilter lovers across Iowa reach a broader audience.
If you have an event you would like to share via Iowa QuiltScape, send your information to
Museum Director Megan Barrett:
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