Quilt Show will feature over 300 quilts, vendors and a united community to sew for good causes | Entertainment/Life
There’s nothing more warm and cozy than a handmade quilt, which immediately conjures up images of snuggling up in front of a roaring fireplace, hot chocolate in hand. In a high-tech retail world, a quilt is personal and often says a lot about the maker who created it.
In North America, quilts have a long history that dates back centuries.
“The original quilts were made by the Pilgrims, stuffed with leaves, twigs and corn husks,” said Robben Karr, president of the Northshore Queen Bees Guild and member of the Gulf States Quilting Association. “The squares were sewn in different places fairly close to each other to prevent the primitive stuffing from shifting.”
Once cotton became readily available before the Civil War, fleece replaced leaves and twigs as the inner layer. But, even with this advancement, traditional quilts still retain their identifiable patchwork patterns.
The GSQA keeps quilters up to date with classes, seminars, and retreats, and encompasses the Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida Panhandle. The group will mingle, network and exhibit their work at the Northshore Harbor Center in Slidell during the association’s biennial quilt show on April 8-9.
The quilt now includes some modern varieties, which feature large designer panels that can take up the majority of the space on the quilt, surrounded by stitched borders.
This is the kind of panel around which Marietta Johnson designed her quilt. Titled “Dancing Ladies”, it shows three women dressed in traditional African clothing, with the center panel designed by Keith Mallett.
Sit down and sew
Johnson has been practicing her craft since she was a little girl.
“When I was 7, I was sewing clothes for my dolls,” Johnson said. “I had a lot of fabric scraps left over that I started using to make my first quilts.”
After some trial and error, she had a four-patch quilt that she thought was good enough to give her brother as a gift. “It was 1987,” she said. “I’ve been at it since.”
Recently the women met for what was once known as quilter’s bee, now called sit and sew, at the My Friends Quilt Shop in Lakeview.
“I made my first quilt when I was 17 for my sister’s baby and my godchild,” said Laura Comiskey Broders, a member of the Stitchy Fingers Guild in New Orleans and this year’s president of the Gulf States Quilting Association. “Although I had always sewn, I put my quilt away after that first experience until I was expecting my own baby 17 years later. And now it’s part of my life.
Broders 48-inch square quilt, called “Modern Free-Wheeling Circles,” is the bold design of famed quilter Gyleen Fitzgerald. Most of the beautiful designs are copyrighted and available at quilt stores nationwide.
Some of the larger quilts, which are pieced together, can be over 7 feet in diameter and contain a multitude of different fabrics, such as the square-within-a-square pattern titled, with a Simon & Garfunkel pun, “Cashmere, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.” Designed by Robben Karr, this pattern contains 169 different paisley fabrics.
To call a blanket or wall hanging a quilt, it must have three essential layers: the top layer containing the pattern; the middle layer, most often today containing batting; and the third layer, the support. These layers are sewn together to make a quilt.
In the beginning, quilts were sewn by hand. These days, complex sewing machines called longarms are the go-to for quilters. They are able to twist and turn fabric in ways that would be much more difficult on a traditional sewing machine.
Priced from $5,000 to $30,000, some are what’s called free-motion, with quilt-guided front handles. High-end machines are computerized. In addition to the quilting machines, the ladies all have their own travel machines, portable for visiting various sites and stitching.
A comforting wrap
Many of the quilts created by women are donated to worthy causes.
“We’re giving away over 100 quilts this year,” said Nancy Habisreitinger, publicist for this year’s exhibit at Slidell. The beneficiaries are Safe Harbor, a shelter for battered women; the Slidell Police Department; and St. Tammany Police and Fire Departments. First responders use quilts to help comfort those affected by violence or fire.
With fabric donated by The Wasted Women Guild, volunteer quilters have volunteered their time on these 100 quilts over the past two years.
The 2022 19th Biennial Quilt Show, titled “Spirit of the Gulf,” will feature 325 handmade quilts made by GSQA members, as well as vendors from across the country providing fabric and supplies, a boutique of crafts and product demonstrations. Visit gulfstatesquilting.org for more information.
Leslie Cardé can be reached at [email protected]