Appalachian heritage runs deep through Western North Carolina and just like moonshine and leather britches, the art of quilting has spanned generations and stands as pillars of culture and history for the region.
Macon County celebrated the annual Airing of the Quilts festival over the weekend, with more than 100 quilts blanketing Franklin’s Main Street.
Handmade quilts are a labor of love; for centuries they have been lovingly crafted, treasured, and preserved for generations of families to enjoy. Some crafted to provide warmth and comfort, and others as a symbol of family history and heritage, but all are admired as a masterpiece of time, love, and dedication.
Historically, after a long winter indoors, Appalachian families would take the quilts outside in the Spring to “air them out.” To honor the tradition, Franklin’s Airing of the Quilts festival was started. In 2015, the festival took a temporary hiatus after Franklin officials eliminated the Main Street Coordinator position, but this year, recognizing the economic benefit the festival has had in prior years, Main Street merchants stepped up to host the festivals themselves. NC Mountain Made owner Linda McKay chaired the committee that organized the festival, which has been held on Mother’s Day weekend each year since its inception.
“Traditionally, women and mothers were the ones to do the quilting in the families, so the festival was planned on Mother’s Day weekend each year as a way to honor the women who have carried the tradition of quilting throughout history,” McKay said.
Quilts were hung from the beginning of Main Street until the end, with quilts telling family stories, new quilts made for children in foster care, Quilts of Valor to be donated to combat veterans and many more. Business owners set up displays in their storefronts that featured quilts that told a story about the business, the business owner, or just showed off the various beautiful quilts that have been crafted in Macon County over time.
Silver Threads and Golden Needles displayed a quilt dating back to the 1800s and both the Franklin Gazebo and Clock Tower were draped in quilts hand made in Macon County. The Airing of the Quilts committee visited each business on Saturday to judge window displays on the difficulty of the quilts that were displayed, and the Appalachian history of the display. Hazel P’s took first place in the window display contest for a display that spread throughout both of the store’s windows and featured a quilt crafted by the restaurant’s namesake, Hazel Sutton. Macon County News was awarded second place for a display that featured Appalachian quilts as well as Appalachian staples such as a moonshine jug and a traditional washboard.