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Color Quest Encourages Quilting Curiosity, Hands-on Play


The Nebraska History Museum wanted to show off its growing collection of antique, Nebraska-made quilts by using something kids and adults alike could relate to: color.

At the museum’s new exhibit called Color Quest, which will be on display until January, you don’t need to be a quiltmaker to understand the time and care put into every stitch of the designs.

“We wanted to do something a little bit different with a quilt exhibit this time,” senior museum curator Laura Mooney said. “We wanted to make it interactive, and we wanted to make it more fun for families with little kids so they could explore quilts but still have some hands-on activities.”

Using color as inspiration, interactive activities are sprinkled in between the quilt displays.

One area invites you to pick up translucent color paddles to see how two dyes can mix together to create new colors. Often early quilt makers didn’t have direct dyes for the colors they wanted to use, and would dye fabric again and again to reach the preferred color.

Other activities encourage kids to try their hand at sewing and designing a quilt. A stitching exercise lets budding quilters practice pulling a needle through a pattern, and another station is full of magnetic quilt blocks ready to be arranged in new designs.

“Hopefully it inspires,” Mooney said. “So even if you’re not a quilter you might get an idea for another art project or craft project, or just be inspired in your life.”

Seasoned quilters might also learn something new. Along with the activities is plenty of information about the history of the quilts and their makers.

Another area invites you to look at the lesser-seen--but no less interesting--backs of quilts. Look closely and you’ll see a quilt made with flour sacks from a Nebraska mill. Another quilt from 1870 contains hundreds of small pieces of paper intricately folded around its stitches.  

A growing, colorful patchwork quilt of post-its at the end of the exhibit invites guests to leave their comments and questions. Some leave doodles, some leave profound questions.

“We just had a lot of fun with encouraging people to be curious,” Mooney said.

The quilts on display are all Nebraska-made and are a part of the Nebraska History Museum’s collection of nearly 400. If you are interested in donating a quilt to the Nebraska History Museum, contact Laura Mooney at or 402-471-4780.

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