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|Length:||1 hour, 42 minutes, 39 seconds.|
|Released:||December 8th, 1997|
What stories lie hidden in the quilts of yesterday? From tales of westward journeys and homestead challenges to legacies of friends and families, quilts speak the stories of their makers. Gathered in time, the strands of the quilters' lives, like their patchwork, chronicle the experience of western women and their colorful past.
Gathered in Time takes viewers on a stitch-by-stitch exploration of quilt making in Utah. Produced by KUED's award-winning Elizabeth Searles, creator of Salt Lake City-Once Upon A Time and Remembering Uncle Golden the 102-minute documentary uses anecdotes, interviews with quilters and collectors, and footage of 73 unique quilts dating from the time of Utah settlement to 1950. The program, narrated by form KSL anchor Jackie Nokes, is based on the University Press book, Gathered in Time, by Kae Covington.
Divided into thematic segments, Gathered in Time chronicles the evolution of quilts, illustrating how they've changed, along with different methods used, available materials, and how long it takes to them. While quilts from the pioneer days were created for utility and survival, those from the 1940s and '50s were often sewn for decorative purposes.
In the early days of quilt making in Utah, women worked hard to help establish their homes and had little time for the frivolities of artistic expression, according to writer Kae Covington. The responsibility of quilting became not only a matter of survival, but also a form of artistry, says Searles. In addition to its practical considerations, a quilt was an expression of a woman's creativity and her resourcefulness.
Pat Hansen, a member of the Utah Quilt Heritage Foundation for over ten years, says early pioneer quilts evoke the hard work and devotion to children which characterized the life of women settlers. There are feelings we get when we see a quilt made by an early pioneer, she says. We discover a pioneer woman's thoughts, worries, and sadnesses that emerged as she work on the quilt.
Over the years, quilting changed, along with patterns, materials, and color choices. Yet those who make quilts today maintain a pioneering spirit, according to Covington. People who quilt now are also pioneers because they are striving to preserve old quilts and techniques. Since it's not a necessity any more, it has become a preservation-oriented and a deliberate art form.
Gathered in Time does what textbook accounts of early Utah typically do not -- tell the story of women in the West. Because the documentation of history was left mostly to the men, we rarely see the women who were at home. But without the work of women, families wouldn't have survived, says Covington.
While there are some men who have created quilts, women were often responsible for working at household tasks, which included sewing and quilting. I hope the strength of women comes through in the documentary says Covington. You know, you don't have to do grandiose things to be great. It's important to recognize the contributions of everyday women. Without women behind them, I don't think the men from the history books could've done what they've done.
In a segment titled I'm Not Sentimental, Ashby Robison of Fillmore, Utah is adamant when he says, I'm not very sentimental about quilts. But after telling the story behind a 1901 friendship quilt given to the local barber by well-known men of Fillmore - including many of Robison's relatives -- he admits, Well, I guess I'm sentimental about this quilt.
Men remember playing under the quilts as young boys, they have fond memories of their mothers sewing quilts, and at the same time they don't want to admit that they have fond memories of that too. But they have warm, comforting feelings about quilts, Searles says.
Gathered in Time illustrates how quilts bring people together, binding families, friends, and neighbors through fabric and compassionate labor. A quilt is an expression of love for another individual, says Searles.
In one of the most emotionally touching scenes of the documentary, Stan Cole of Salt Lake City remembers a quilt made in 1918 by a family friend, whom he called Aunt Julia. Cole rescued Julia's colorful wedding ring-patterned quilt from the trash, and now reveres it as a priceless token of a woman who deeply touched his life.
Aunt Julia's quilt stirs memories of her frequent visits to Cole's home. She always brought a sack of candy and canned goods and groceries of all kinds. We didn't get bananas and oranges very often, but she always brought them when she came. Even the neighbors knew when she was there...It's a kind of a funny little thing, but it's just one of the things I remember about her, he says.
Cole recalls Aunt Julia's long hair, which touched the floor when she took it out of a bun. Once, he asked her for a piece of her long hair. She had my mother take a pair of scissors and go in the top of her head and cut off some strands, and I wound them up in a coil around my finger, tied them with string, and kept them in a little jewel box. I don't know what ever happened to that piece of Julia's hair I can't believe that I lost it.
Quilts allow people like Cole to honor the memory of their creators. When somebody invests the time and energy to create something as beautiful as a quilt, they weave a part of themselves into the fabric, says Searles.
Hansen agrees that quilts are the personal records of their makers. You may have other things to do, but when you take the time to quilt, it's a source of strength, serenity, and it's a calm place, she says, citing quilt columnist Helen Kelly's well-known adage: Quilting is not a matter of life and death, it's much more important.
When people look at quilts, they see their histories. I don't have but one or two quilts that I've made for myself, because I give most away, says Hansen. When you make a quilt, you put yourself into it: you plan it, pick the colors, and spend a lot of time thinking about it. It takes hours of your idle moments; it always tiptoes around that periphery of your mind and jumps back in when you have a moment.
Quilts allow people to make a connection with their family heritage, an important activity to many individuals in Utah. Quilts provide us with tangible, touchable links with our heritage. Discovering a family quilt is a great way to get to know ancestors without really talking to them, says Covington.
Searles hopes Gathered in Time will encourage viewers to preserve their own histories, to look through their closets and attics to discover treasures from their past. It's a very human story with a broad base of appeal, she says. This is not about back stitching and fabric choice. It's about quilts rich in meaning and how they touch people's lives.
Gathered in Time is made possible by the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation.
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