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Warm & Fuzzy

Madison area quilters prepare
for annual Bits & Pieces Quilt Show

They plan to raffle a quilt as part
of their fundraising effort

(April 2017) – For the past 22 years, the Jefferson County (Ind.) Cooperative Extension Homemakers have sponsored the colorful “Bits & Pieces Quilt Show” at the Jefferson County 4-H Fairgrounds. They exhibit anywhere from 50 to 100 quilts of all kinds – antique, handmade or machine made – the more the better. Moreover, they spend much of the year making a quilt that they raffle at the show in order to raise scholarship funds for high school seniors in Jefferson County schools.
This year’s show will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 21-22 at the fairgrounds on State Road 256. Admission is $5. There will be quilt supply vendors and door prizes.

Photo by Alice Jane Smith

From left, quiltmakers Janet McMahan and Linda Phillips display the “Hanging Garden” quilt that will be raffled at the upcoming Bits & Pieces Quilt Show.

One of the biggest draws of the show is the quilt raffle. For the past nine months, members of area extension quilting groups have worked on the quilt. This year, they chose the “Hanging Garden” design. Richly colored in greens, mauve and lavender with a turquoise border, the quilt is “generously” queen-sized, according to long-time quilter Janet McMahan of Madison. She worked on the quilt but credited Margie Renschler and Glenda Schirmer with doing most of the work. Raffle tickets cost $1 each or $5 for six tickets.
“The quilt is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” said Linda Phillips of Madison. She described the current quilt as “quite eye-catching,” adding that the quilters “did a wonderful job.” She is president of the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Homemakers and a member of the Smyrna Neighbors Homemakers Club. “Last year we gave $300 scholarships to seniors at three high schools.”
Another big draw is to see what quilts others enter in the show. The show is not juried, and there is no charge to exhibit a quilt, according to McMahan. “I’d like to get as many quilts and different quilts as we can,” she said.
During the show, visitors can vote on their favorite quilts. Two vendors, Margie’s Country Store and L&L Yard Goods, award gift certificates to the first- and second-place winners. Quilts should be delivered to the fairgrounds between 4-6 p.m. Thursday, April 20.

Photo by Alice Jane Smith

Linda Phillips spreads out the “Hanging Gardens” quilt that will be raffled at the April 21-22 Bits & Pieces Quilt Show.

There is a long tradition of women’s groups who get together to make quilts in order to raise funds for a project, according to Judy Ann Breneman in “America’s Quilting History.” During the Civil War, women made quilts to raise funds and give warmth and comfort to the troops. Women made quilts to raise funds for abolition of slavery. Their quilts were sold among other crafts at “Grand Fairs.” Quilters were active in the war efforts for World War I and II, raising funds for the war effort and making quilts for others.
And always, quilt-making was associated with using scraps of fabric leftover from making clothes at home. It became less visible after the 1930s, according to Breneman, when women went on to further education or go to work. Later, there was a decline in home sewing, although that decline was less apparent in rural America.
But the 1960s and l970s saw a revival in quilts that continues to grow.
McMahan has been sewing since she was in eighth grade in Mansfield, Ohio, where she grew up. “My mother was a good seamstress.” The family had an electric sewing machine (“We were more advanced,” she chuckled). McMahan did sewing projects in school. She also spent years as receptionist for a construction company and “in the safety end” for Thermo Disk.
In 1991, she married Tom McMahan and moved to Madison, where she became involved in the homemakers’ groups. A member of the Smyrna Neighbors’ Homemakers Club, she has been involved with the “Bits & Pieces Quilt Show” since its start 22 years ago.
“I was with the first group (who worked on the quilt),” she said. The late Stella Gray and the late Alma Stillman both did much of the work on this quilt. “I enjoyed quilting and sewing,” McMahan said. “I got to help make it. It had a star and a log cabin.”
It takes at least nine months to complete a quilt, depending on how intricate the pattern is, McMahan said. First of all, one or two people in the group choose a pattern, and then they go to a quilt shop to pick fabric. At first, the entire group went, but that approach did not work. “Nobody liked what the others liked,” McMahan said. “We learned to take just one or two people.” They rotate among fabric stores in the area, including Margie’s Country Store, Quilter’s Nook in Versailles, Ind., and Sharynn’s Quilt Shop in North Vernon, Ind.
In addition to the scholarships, the county’s three homemakers’ extension groups (Smyrna, Sunshine and Saluda) focus on doing things for others. There is an international exchange program so that members can visit other countries or people in those countries might visit here. McMahan and Phillips recall a visitor from Australia who was in the North Vernon area.
Locally, the groups give a basket of gifts to the first baby born at King’s Daughters’ Hospital each year. They furnish layettes for babies who don’t have them. Two women make small crocheted or knitted quilts for people who are terminally ill with cancer. Members help people in nursing homes.
The long tradition of making quilts to give warmth and comfort to others is alive and well in Jefferson County.

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