Cookeville, TN – Just Northeast of Nashville is the Upper Cumberland, a collection of counties situated along the snaking Cumberland River. Two lane country highways weave their way through small towns and miles of lush green farm land. Like weathered beacons dotting the landscape, old world barns rise among acres of corn, wheat, cotton and tobacco fields. To the folks at Tennessee Tech School of Agriculture, these barns are canvases on which to displays some of the most cherished quilt patterns of Tennessee’s long history. With the cooperation of farm families, local businesses and individuals, Tennessee Tech created the Upper Cumberland Quilt Trail. Wood squares, ranging from 2’x2’ to 8’x8,’ depict heirloom pattern quilt blocks and are attached to barns, businesses and even homes along scenic roadways.
“In painting their favorite patterns on barns, businesses and homes, we are honoring local quilters who are well known for their skills of using every piece of scrap fabric to create a beautiful work of art that is also a useful item in the home,” the projects website says.
The website also provides detailed maps and driving directions along the trails.
Quilting is an important art form in the South and the Upper Cumberland has taken a lead in preserving this historic tradition. The City of Algood, just outside Cookville, has hosted the Upper Cumberland Quilt Festival since 1988. Founded by Cookeville resident Barbara Tolleson, the festival brings together quilters from across Tennessee and surrounding states to display over 500 quilts, 175 of them for competition in one of ten juried categories.
“Probably no craft or art form was more widely practiced by women of all stations of life than quilting – not only in this country but in the lands from whence the early settlers came. From Mary Queen of Scots, to maidens in the most impoverished European cottages, and in America from wives of Presidents to women living in one-room dirt-floored frontier cabins, the needles flew, and beautiful as well as useful quilts were made,” says John Rice Irwin of the Museum of Appalachia in Norris, TN. “No other art form has been so universally practiced for centuries by so many different people. Each a different creation even if the patterns are the same.”
This year the Festival takes place September 19-21. For $6 ($5 in advance) you can stroll amongst the many exhibits, shop, watch demonstrations and learn quilting techniques from the masters. For $39, the Festival is offering special guided tours of the Quilt Trails complete with lunch. Proceeds from the Festival benefit the Algood Senior Center.
QUILT DRIVING TOUR:
Driving Tour Dates: November 1, 2012 thru December 31, 2013
Driving Tour Location: Cannon, Clay, Cumberland, De Kalb, Fentress, Jackson, Macon, Morgan, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Scott, Smith, Van Buren Counties in Tennessee
Driving Tour Website: www.uppercumberlandquilttrail.com
Driving Tour Cost: Free
Festival Dates: September 19-21, 2013 from 9am-5pm
Festival Location: Algood, TN
Festival Website: www.quilt-festival.com
Festival Cost: $6.00 (at door) or $5.00 (in advance) * $25.00 for the preview dinner and auction * $39.00 for the quilt barn tour with lunch