Dolly Parton’s song, COAT OF MANY COLORS, tells of her mother taking bits of cloth and creating a patchwork quilt coat for her daughter. In addition to being a nice song, Dolly’s patchwork coat represents the skills of mountain women and men who stitch together works of art that are displayed annually in Pigeon Forge. March 15-19, 2016, the Piece-Makers and the Night Quilters’ Guild brought together over 500 quilts from around the region and displayed them at the LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge, TN. This was the 22nd annual Mountain Quilt Festival.
In addition to displaying quilts, the guild arranges for over 70 quilting technique classes to be taught by professional quilters. They also bring in over 30 vendors who have products and material for sale to the many quilters who attend the festival.
Prizes are also given to winners in several categories. Distinctions are made between professional and amateur quilters with prizes for large and small quilts, hand and machine quilts, pieced quilts and appliqué quilts.
In addition to the Festival, the Piece Makers’ Guild work year-round to create “charity quilts” that are given free to battered women’s shelters. When children are brought into the shelter with their mother, each child receives a quilt they can cuddle with at the shelter and take with them when they move on.
Just as Avie Lee Parton hand stitched Dolly’s coat of many colors, hundreds of people in the East Tennessee region save bits of cloth and plan patterns and color combinations to bring together works of art that will be given away to a loved one or remain in the family for generations.
By Bill Gathergood for Gracehill Bed and Breakfast