Bed Turning

Maxine Stovall and Kathy Muhammad holding an African American history themed quilt made by a member of the Sisters of the Cloth Quilting Guild in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Photo by Jon Kay

At quilt shows and guild meetings around the United States, quilters perform bed turnings to share the stories about the quilts and the experience of making them. While quilters typically gather in a bedroom to watch other quilt makers peel back layers of their exquisite fabrics while telling of their creative designs, “turnings” today are sometimes performed as large public displays. At this year’s Festival, the Sisters of the Cloth of Fort Wayne, Indiana, will perform this tradition; the Sisters will display their quilts while contextualizing them and relaying the meanings of their handiwork to audience members. From narratives about civil rights and family history to explanations of creative processes and painstaking labor, bed turnings amplify the stories embedded in quilts.

Come meet the Sisters of the Cloth and watch a demonstration of bed turning. You can also learn about the work of Traditional Arts Indiana, an organization that documents the cultural expressions and traditions of Indiana communities.

Bed Turning demonstrations are scheduled for the Commons Stage on:

IU’s Traditional Arts Indiana trains students to work with folk artists and communities around the state while studying folklore. Pictured here are the Sisters of the Cloth Quilting Guild of Fort Wayne, one of the groups that students have researched. Photo by Anna Mulé, courtesy of Indiana University

June 28 from 2:45 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

July 1 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:15 p.m.

Watch a video of the Sisters of the Cloth demonstrating a bed turning ceremony at the Indiana State Fair.

Jon Kay is director at Traditional Arts Indiana, a statewide traditional arts program based at Indiana University. Kay conducts fieldwork, supports public programs, and produces exhibitions and documentary videos about Indiana’s traditional artists and art forms.