Patchwork Pride

Area quilt makers
find fascination in hobby

Many quilts reflect
family heritage, artistic touch

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

CARROLLTON, Ky. (November 2003) – Jeannie Jacobs of Middletown, Ky., said her fascination with quilting began in 1945 when her great-grandmother gave her and her sister each a quilt top as a wedding present. Since her great-grandmother had only pieced the tops, they remained unquilted until 1978 when Jacobs asked herself, “Who’s going to quilt these if I don’t?”

Quilt cover

Cover of RoundAbout

Many can relate to Jacob’s story of having a grandmother who quilted. But quilting is far from being a thing of the past. Many people today are reviving this age-old art form.
Quilting has now become a pastime, an addictive hobby. Quilts are often used today as decorative displays in homes, whereas they were once only seen as items of necessity.
Due to an increased awareness of the social, cultural and historical aspects of quilts, many quilting societies and groups have sprung up in recent years, including those in Kentuckiana. Local quilt shows are becoming more prevalent, as a means of showcasing the art of quilting, and many counties’ agricultural extension offices have initiated quilting groups as an activity that continues to grow.
Jacobs said quilting is popular because it “focuses on family, genealogy and heritage.” Jacobs is president of the Middletown Civic Club, which will sponsor its Quilt Show in June 2004. This event is a cooperative effort between the Civic Club and the Historic Middletown Museum that is expected to attract participants throughout the area.
The club is housed in the Middletown Inn, 11705 Main St., Middletown. There is a $15 registration fee per quilt and two categories: new, which includes 1961 to present; and vintage, pre-1960.
Although Jacobs doesn’t quilt as much as she used to, there are other Civic Club members who do, such as Marcella Baker. Baker’s mother taught her the craft and she has been quilting for the last 40 years.

Jeannie Jacobs

Photo by Helen McKinney

Jeannie Jacobs of Middletown, Ky.

She will participate in the 2004 Quilt Show and has stitched several baby quilts, made quilts for family members and even sold a couple of her creations. Baker said that she feels like she has really accomplished something when she finishes a quilt. “I have something to be proud of.”
Quilt collecting is becoming almost as intense a hobby as the craft of quilting itself. Eleanor Bingham Miller is one of the founders of the Kentucky Quilt Project, organized in 1981 to survey and preserve Kentucky’s quilts.
“Quilts take on a life of their own,” Miller said. They have the ability to “outlast their maker.”
In addition to Miller, members of the Kentucky Quilt Project include Bruce Mann, Eunice Sears, Dorothy West and Shelly Zegart. This organization scheduled 13 “Quilt Days” in an attempt to gather fine and unique examples of antique quilts. The makers and histories of these quilts were also documented by the organization.
Miller referred to these Quilt Days as “snapshots of the state’s heritage.” The result was the documentation of 1,200 quilts. Records kept include 39 linear feet of material dating from 1980 to 1997, transparencies, slides, snapshots, Polaroid prints, correspondence and videotapes.
The Kentucky Quilt Project records were donated to the University of Louisville Archives and Records Center, with processing of the collection funded by Miller and her husband, Rowland. The Millers have taken Kentucky quilts to New York City for the show, Heritage of Genius-American Master Quilts.
Miller said that as a result of this project, “Kentucky generated 48 other states to do the same.”

Carrollton quilters

Photo by Don Ward

From left, Leslie Sutherland, Shannon Taylor and Patricia Hersey of Carrollton.

Another popular quilting group within the state is the Kentucky Cover Lovers. Vice president and program chair Betsy Packard said that the group is “open to anyone with an interest in quilting, and we have many beginners and many ‘masters.’ “ Several members of KCL have been grand champions at the Kentucky State Fair.
The group meets September through May and offers many educational programs, including all-day seminars with guest instructors. A fall 2004 Quilt Show is in the works. The KCL is a guild member of the Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society.
Based in Shelby County, Ky., KCL is supported by the Shelby County Cooperative Extension Service. Membership is not limited to Shelby Countians, said Packard. There are statewide quilting groups that belong to the society.
This hobby has become so prevalent in Oldham County that the two groups began through the Oldham County Cooperative Extension Service, the Saturday Morning Quiltmakers and the Log Cabin Quilters, can no longer accept members, said Cretia Crowe. Crowe, extension agent for Family and Consumer Sciences, said she would be willing to “start another group if there is enough interest.”
For the last 18 years, the Carroll County Library has sponsored an October Quilt Show. Shannon Taylor coordinates this show, which lasts through the month of October. She said there continues to be a local interest in such shows, with many repeat entrants.
She said many local quilters were willing to share their quilts for a month of which there are a large variety of patterns and colors. “As fall comes on, it’s a nice way to brighten up the library,” said Taylor.
Taylor referred to library employee, Patricia Hersey, as their “in-house expert on quilts.” Hersey leads a Monday evening quilting group that meets once a month at the library. She said quilting is “fun and nurturing, for yourself and family.”
Hersey said that while women no longer have to quilt, “It connects us to history. Nobody had to make them as beautiful as they did.” The hands that quilted vintage quilts were “seeking to make their environment beautiful,” she said.
From time to time, Lois Hunt displays her mother’s quilts in this annual quilt show. Now deceased, Iva Morgan was a well-known quilter in the Carrollton area. She made an abundance of quilts, which she pieced and quilted by hand for her family and for other people.

Molly Doerr

Photo by Don Ward

Molly Doerr displays one of her quilts.

“I treasure the ones she made,” said Hunt. “When we were little, her quilting frames took up the whole room,” she remembered. Hunt always displays her mother’s handiwork in her home.
Even though some have become raggedy and tattered, her mother cautioned her years ago, “Don’t ever get rid of it.” Hunt’s mother knew what value quilt collectors would place on such items.
Vibrant colors are a part of what attracts Campbellsburg optometrist Dr. Molly Doerr to quilting. “I love every part of quilting,” she said. While Doerr enjoys cutting and piecing quilts, she said color is the main thing.
Doerr was a participant in the October Quilt Show at the Carroll County Public Library this year and in past years. On display was a baby quilt she had stitched 20 years ago for her eldest daughter, Rebecca.
While awaiting the birth of her first child, Doerr said she took a quilting class at a local quilt shop in Georgetown, Ky., where she lived at the time. The group’s goal was to produce a block a month for their own projects. Doerr said she drew inspiration from pages in coloring books and from existing patterns to embellish her quilt because she wanted “every block to be recognizable by a child.”
Not knowing whether the child was to be a boy or a girl, she left the last block blank. After Doerr’s daughter was born, a block with a Sunbonnet Sue pattern was added. To this block she added Rebecca’s name and birth date.
Rebecca, now in college, has taken a quilting class and pieced a quilt herself. Her younger sister, Elizabeth, has also pieced a quilt at age 14. Doerr hopes that these experiences will provide a foundation for her daughters should they someday decide to continue quilting. By learning this skill, Doerr hopes they will appreciate and respect their mother’s quilts and all of the loving stitches that went into each one.
“Quilting is almost like therapy; very peaceful and just very restful,” said Doerr. Since creating her first quilt, Doerr said she gave up all other hobbies, such as crocheting. She was hooked on this hobby because “it is an art form, but also practical.”
Doerr said there is nothing warmer than crawling under a quilt in the winter time. Her attitude has changed somewhat from when she was a child and would receive quilts at Christmas. “I would get a blanket instead of a toy,” she said. Unimpressed then, she has grown much more appreciative over the years.

• For more information on the Middletown Inn Quilt Show, contact Jacobs at (502) 244-3004.

Quilting Sources:
• www.shellyquilts.com
• http://special.library.louisville.edu/display-collection.asp?ID=785.
• Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society, President Carole W. Crabtree,
gogiquilts@home.com, (859) 272-4253 or
Donna Duncan, (502) 845-7150
• Oldham County Cooperative Extension Service, Cretia Crowe, (502) 222-9453
• Trimble Thimbles, President Charlene Ellis, (502) 268-5145 or
Trimble County Cooperative Extension Service, Jane Proctor, (502) 255-7188
• Henry County Cooperative Extension Service, Maryellen Garrison, (502) 845-2811
• Shelby County Cooperative Extension Service, Milestone Quilters, (502) 633-4593
• Kentucky Cover Lovers, President Paula Mitchell, (502) 829-9332
• Monday Evening Quilting Group, Carroll County Public Library, Patricia Hersey
(502) 732-7020.



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