The Airing of the Quilts
Smithville, Texas is a quaint small town (population 3,855) situated on the banks of the Colorado River. For the past several years, its natural charm has been enhanced further on the second Saturday in November with an event known as “The Airing of the Quilts.”
Begun by an enterprising merchant, Jan Rodwick, and an avid quilter, Virginia Ilseng, The Airing of the Quilts is intended to bring visitors and shoppers to the downtown district, while also showcasing the art of quilting.
The town’s Main Street is transformed by a profusion of color and texture as businesses and shop owners hang quilts outside the fronts of their buildings for passersby to admire. While some of the quilts are for sale, many are treasured possessions displayed only for the day.
Homeowners throughout the town also get into the spirit by hanging quilts on porch railings or elsewhere in their yards. Recently, the event has coincided with a homes tour, with featured houses all displaying quilts somewhere on their premises.
Although it has now been given a distinctly modern and unabashedly commercial twist, the act of “airing” quilts has its roots in actual practice.
Traditional bed quilts were frequently heavy, often fragile, and always difficult to clean. Because the process of washing and drying quilts was labor-intensive, time-consuming, and potentially damaging to the materials, quilts were alternatively freshened by placing them outdoors to air out.
Of course Smithville, Texas is only one of many towns hosting an annual Airing of the Quilts celebration. Similar events are held all across the United States in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, Macon County, North Carolina, and Northhampton, Washington to name a very few.
If you’re lucky enough to be in an area that hosts an “airing,” do yourself a favor and go. You’ll be rewarded with a feast for your senses.
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