"Workt by Hand" at National Museum of Women in the Arts Monday, Dec. 23

Because I’m a sexist idiot, I assumed an exhibit on quilts might be a touch dull. Wrong! “Workt by Hand: Hidden Labor and Historical Quilts” at the National Museum of Women in the Arts offers stunning visuals and a lively history lesson in the form of 35 historical quilts, on loan from the Brooklyn Museum’s decorative arts collection. The objects range from cotton star of Bethlehem quilts to a silk abstract piece stitched in agonizing, mind-rattling precision (and named, appropriately, “Crazy Quilt”). Arranged thematically rather than chronologically, the exhibit explores ideas of women’s work, the place of decorative arts in museums, and authorship—the women behind most of these masterpieces are unknown to us. With plenty of history-nerd nuggets hidden in the information placards—post-WWI quilts use never-before-seen pastels because the German textile industry was forced to reveal its dye recipes as part of war reparations. What!—“Workt by Hand” might be the most fun you’ll have at a museum show about quilts this holiday season. The exhibit is on view Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays noon to 5 p.m. to April 27, 2014, at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1250 New York Ave. NW. $8–$10. (202) 783-5000. nmwa.org.

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