Color of Memory

I do love to travel, but sometimes it’s fun to be a tourist in your own home town.

And if you think there’s nothing to do in Kansas City, you’re absolutely right. Feel free to skip this post.

Kansas City Ariel shot

(Our town is the best kept secret, and I plan to keep it that way.)

Word had got to me of a new fiber arts exhibit, The Color of Memory, at the National WWI Museum and Memorial, which is an awesome museum in its own right.

Since it had been a while (like, elementary school) since I went to the museum, I decided to do the whole shebang: the exhibit, the main museum, and the tower (which is how I got that awesome city shot).

Tobacco quilts in the WWI museum

These pieces are regularly on display in the main museum, tobacco flannel quilts. Gotta love that ingenuity and resourcefulness.

In the museum gift shop, they have a whole corner dedicated to the fiber arts of the era. I wanted it all, of course, but here’s what I managed to leave with: a print of a propaganda poster, encouraging people to “knit their bit,” and a book about WWI knitting that includes stories, illustrations from the time, and historical patterns!

WWI Knitting poster and book from the museum gift shop

Now, on to the main event:

Color of Memory Exhibit at the WWI Museum

Most of the pieces were souvenirs to commemorate the Great War. The one directly below was made of canvas from an airplane!

Airplane Canvas art
French Needlepoint pieces

What I found really interesting, in the needlepoint pieces, the canvases were in the 8-13 count range. They’re much larger stitches than I expected. Honestly, it made me feel closer to these artists from a century ago. Who wants a million tiny stitches in an inch when 64 to 169 would do.

Embroidery Souvenirs
1919 souvenir
Countries Butterfly embroidery

These embroidery pieces, also called silks, were very popular souvenirs because of their size, smaller than a modern postcard. They became a cottage industry in Belgium and France after the war. Some of them were machine embroidered, which was another unexpected surprise.

Red Cross Quilt

Finally, my personal favorite, Red Cross fundraiser quilts. You would pay to sign a quilt block and the finished quilt will be auctioned off, so more money to the troops.

Unfinished fundraising quilt

This one is the most amazing by far. It is believed to have been “made at the instigation of” Representative Jeannette Rankin, who was the only woman in congress. This is before women even had the right to vote. She started it around Armistice Day, which is probably why it’s unfinished, but honestly it makes me love it more. Again, I feel closer to the predecessors of my craft when I see that they’re as human as I am.

It’s signed by the likes of First Lady Edith Wilson, Charlie Chaplin, Orville Wright, Helen Keller, Alexander Graham Bell, Theodore Roosevelt, a queen, a prince, and 41 state governors. There’s so many cool names, they didn’t even all make it on to the exhibit label. I spent the majority of my time in the exhibit hunting down all the signatures.

Helen Keller and Charlie Chaplin's signatures
Alexander Graham Bell's signature
Theodore Roosevelt's signature

This exhibit is full of amazing pieces, but the museum staff said interest hasn’t been that high. I’m devastated by that. If you like history, or fiber arts in any respect, please check out this exhibit as soon as you can! We want to make sure people keep finding value in the work so it can be around for our descendants to see in another century.

3 thoughts on “Color of Memory

  1. “And if you think there’s nothing to do in Kansas City, you’re absolutely right. Feel free to skip this post.”

    I was ready to throw down in the comments until I kept reading… haha! Let’s keep the greatness that is KC hidden!

    Liked by 1 person

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