So many Southerners know the joy of curling up beneath a hand-stitched family heirloom quilt and appreciating the hours of care poured into that quilt by a loving mother, aunt or grandmother. Quilts and quilting are a cornerstone of Appalachian culture, just like cornbread and bluegrass music.

Quilting began as a frugal way to keep families warm in the winter. Life was hard in these mountains, so everything was saved and re-used. Scraps of cloth and worn-out clothing found many uses, until finally those clothing scraps made their way into quilts. Quilt patterns held meaning, as did the memories contained in the fabric, and families took shelter from the cold under Pappy’s old workshirts or Mamaw’s wedding dress.

Detail of Star of David quilt by the late Mrs. Cecil Keck Carey.

Detail of Star of David quilt by the late Mrs. Cecil Keck Carey.

These days, the craft born of necessity has become a fine art, and the results are no less beautiful and meaningful.

The historic town of Jonesborough, Tenn., is hosting two unique quilt shows this month that travelers of the Great Valley Wine Trail might enjoy. As you drive the Trail and experience our revived tradition of Tennessee wine, consider stopping in Tennessee’s oldest town to experience the ongoing tradition of quilting.

The Mountain Messages Quilt Exhibition is a free quilt exhibit open to the public 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, in the McKinney Center at Booker T. Washington School, 103 Franklin Avenue, Jonesborough. The show runs through July 23. Twenty quilts from master artisans are on display with the theme “Architecture of the Mountains.”

Many quilters dedicated their quilts to family members, as in this hand-stitched example.

Many quilters dedicate their quilts to family members, as in this hand-stitched example.

Through July 29, the Hoffman Quilt and Doll Challenge, a traveling display of quilts which must incorporate a designated fabric, will be exhibited at the Jonesborough Visitor Center, 117 Boone Street. The exhibit is free and open to the public 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

We recommend that you start your day at Watauga Lake Winery, in the beautiful Cherokee National Forest, and perhaps stop for a late breakfast at Em’s Place in the quaint hamlet of Hampton, Tenn., before you get there. Then, make your way along scenic Highway 321 and enjoy farmland and mountain views all the way to Jonesborough.

Jonesborough is a walkable town, so park and take in the sights, including those lovely quilt displays, and enjoy lunch at one of the town’s dining spots.

Back on the road, follow Highway 11E through Greeneville until you hit State Highway 349, which will take you straight to Goodwater Road, home of Goodwater Vineyards in Mosheim, Tenn. Just follow this handy map to guide you on your way. We hope to see you along the trail this summer!