It started innocently enough. A staff member at the Warren County History Center Museum was cleaning out drawers, recalls Vicky Van Harlingen, executive director of the Warren County Historical Society.

First came a quilt from a dressing table drawer. Then another quilt was pulled from a chest of drawers. Quilts soon spilled out from nooks and crannies all over the museum.

“They were so pretty,” says Van Harlingen. “We said, ‘Well, let’s put these out.’ We just got tables and anything that we could find and we laid out all these quilts and put a little press release out that we were having this quilt show.”

No one had any inkling what would happen next.

What happened next is that people came to the museum to see the quilts—lots of people. “We were just swamped for the whole summer,” says Van Harlingen.

When Joan Townsend, owner of the Oh Suzanna gift shop in Lebanon, visited the museum’s quilt display and saw all the people, she immediately realized what needed to happen next, says Van Harlingen.

“She said we need to do a quilt show,” says Van Harlingen. And so the Lebanon Quilt & Fabric Arts Show and Sale was born. It’s now the oldest quilt and fabric art show and sale in the Midwest.

“The first one was a vendor show,” says Van Harlingen. “And then we also had some of our quilts on display, and we also had our quilts on display at the museum. But it was all antique quilts and we kept it antique quilts for several years.”

But the world of quilting was changing.

“In the old days, when we first started doing it, it was ladies who quilted, or their mothers quilted, and they came to look at all the different patterns and go, ‘Oh, I know that’s log cabin and that’s nine patch and that’s Ohio star and that’s drunkard’s path,’” says Van Harlingen.

“Then people got more into making quilts again and then these other fabric arts have come about. It’s got more into like quilt art,” she says.

But the traditional quilters are not forgotten. This year’s special exhibit will be the “Blankenbecker Family Treasure: The personal work of a meticulous 19th century weaver, knitter, and quilter,” says Julie Dawson, owner of American Treasures Productions, who now manages the quilt show.

“This year we’re having the collection of one family, one woman from early 19th century Kentucky,” says Dawson. The extensive collection is rare because the family’s collection is completely intact from the early 1800s, says Dawson.

“There’s a rising appreciation for women’s art,” Dawson says.

To see the collection and to meet vendors offering quilts, quilting and craft supplies, patterns, fabrics, and vintage textiles, head to the Warren County History Center and Lebanon Conference and Banquet Center, 105 & 121 South Broadway, Lebanon.

This year’s Lebanon Quilt and Fabric Arts Show will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, March 6, and Saturday, March 7, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 8.