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Northern Illinois Quilt Fest

Northern Illinois Quilt Fest: a unique celebration of quilts “from barns to bedcovers.”

A six-county quilt trail from the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan, the debut Northern Illinois Quilt Fest (NIQF) is set to celebrate the tradition of quilting from July to September. Along the way, there will be plenty to see and do, including quilted barns, quilt gardens, classes, shop hops, art exhibits, special events and more.

NIQF kicks off during a preview night from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on June 30 at the McHenry County Historical Society (MCHS) Museum.

Nancy J. Fike, museum administrator, said the idea to host a quilt festival made perfect sense. Not only did the museum want to promote its collection, but it figured other regional museums would have lovely collections to show off, too.

“Sandy Schweitzer, a Crystal Lake quilt collector and appraiser– after volunteering at the MCHS and admiring the rich and varied quilt collection at the museum – spoke with exhibit curator Grace Moline and me about ways to promote this great collection,” Fike recalled. “And because quilters are known to travel to great lengths to see quilts, it seemed like a good idea to partner tourism with a quilting focus.”

Local Anchor Sites and Attractions
MCHS will obviously be a hub of NIQF activities. The museum will extend its hours during the three-month fest for a show featuring quilts from the museum’s large collection: Depression-era quilts, red and white quilts, crazy quilts and political quilts.

“Volunteers will be needed July through September to help staff the museum – it’s a great opportunity to get behind the scenes at the museum,” Fike said.

Quilted Barn Program
NIQF is the perfect vehicle for showcasing quilted barns – perhaps you have seen one or more of these 25 beauties while driving in the county.

“The Quilted Barn Program combines public art with barn preservation education – a perfect objective,” Fike said. “We are working on a self-guided map featuring quilt barn locations with information on the quilt patterns on display as well as history of the various barns.”

Crazy About Quilts
Steeped in tradition, interest in quilts remains popular today. “Quilting continues to be popular on a number of levels,” Fike said. “It is an activity that can be shared with others or done alone. Either designing a quilt or following an established pattern allows for a wide range of artistic leeway either through the creation process or the selection of colors.

“Quilts make for unique gifts that help cement the relationship between maker and receiver. Add to this the technological advancements in sewing machines and it makes learning and doing quilting easier for more people.”

Quilts are also an important thread in the fabric of the human experience.

“Quilts have been made to document family milestones – weddings, births and anniversaries,” she said. “Some quilts like signature quilts aid in the recovery of the sick or honor individuals. Quilts are made for newborns, soldiers, AIDS awareness; 19th-century political quilts and/or Century of Progress quilts mark national events. Quilts speak to us through design, materials and colors and they exemplify the boundless nature of human creativity.”


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