to ‘Census Quilt’
Quilters put their needles to work to promote
LA GRANGE, Ky. (May 2020) – Homemaker clubs are known for educating and helping their community. Barbara Lynch is an Oldham County Homemaker who has contributed in a big way to a recent statewide project.
The special project is a partnership between the U.S. Census Bureau and the Kentucky Department of Libraries & Archives to create a quilt to promote the 2020 Census and encourage people to complete the questionnaire. The call for quilters was issued last year, and in four short months, the Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association members created a quilt that included a square from each of Kentucky’s 120 counties.
Photo courtesy of Matt Barton, UK Agriculture
The Kentucky Extension Census Quilt features separate squares from each of the state’s 120 counties.
For the past 10 years, Lynch has been a member of two Oldham County Homemaker clubs, Rughooking and Poplar Grove. She is responsible for designing and creating the quilt block that represents Oldham County.
Lynch, 76, said she was the only one from her clubs and the county to work on the quilt “because time was very short. We had a limited time to do something.” She is also president of the Oldham County Extension Homemakers Association.
The quilt project was proposed in March of 2019 and initiated in May. Four months later – on Sept. 16 – the 2020 Kentucky Census Quilt was unveiled at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Ky. Lynch said that KEHA members in Grant County “put it all together.”
“The Census Bureau contacted the KEHA about the project,” said Lauren Fernandez, Oldham County Extension Program Assistant. “Homemakers had made a quilt for the 2010 census. KEHA accepted the challenge again for 2020 and reached out to all 120 counties about making squares.”
Not surprisingly, Oldham County’s block depicts a train. Lynch said Dottie Crouch, the Homemakers president of the area (seven counties makeup the area), aided in deciding what should represent the county. “She had the idea that we’re the only town with a train running through it,” said Lynch. So the notion stuck.
Fernandez said, “We submitted the following description along with the quilt square: La Grange, the seat of Oldham County, is home to the only street-running railroad on a Main Street in America. As many as 30 trains pass though the county each day. The historic Main Street district in La Grange hosts a Kentucky Proud farmers market.”
Lynch’s design consists of a train embroidered in black on a white background. She machine embroidered the design. “I used to do a lot of quilting,” she said, “but now my eyes are going. Now I mostly do machine embroidery and painting.”
The only instructions she received before starting was that the block had to be 6x6 inches. “So I tried to think of something in relation to the county.”
Lynch said the KEHA posts pictures of each county’s quilt block periodically. “It was an amazing feat. It does stand out.” The KEHA has a long history with more than 14,000 members.
“I’m personally quite impressed by how Kentucky’s homemakers tackled this project,” Fernandez said. “All 120 counties participated and took the quilt from concept to completion in only four months. The different squares showcase boundless creativity as well as the historic and cultural aspects of our beloved state.”
Oldham County currently has 130 homemakers across 11 clubs, she said. Some, like Lynch, participate in multiple clubs.
“We do a lot of things for the county and community,” Lynch said. She likes the educational slant of the Homemakers clubs. “Each club does something different.”
Earlier this year, the 2020 Kentucky Census Quilt was on display at the Oldham County Public Library from Jan. 6-14. The goal was for it to travel around the state to be displayed in public libraries in different counties each month. In December 2020 it will be displayed at the U.S. Census Bureau.
Once its tour of the state is over, the quilt will be installed for long-term display at the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives in Frankfort in January 2021. Photos and information about each quilt block were compiled into a booklet that travels with the quilt and is available on the KEHA website.
The booklet “will help viewers learn more about our state while showcasing the creativity of KEHA members,” said current KEHA State Advisor, Kimberly Henken. “In addition, the quilt reminds viewers that every individual in every county counts – a key reminder for the 2020 Census. It is more than a quilt – it is an example of teamwork and achieving a common goal.”
Cindy Moore is the Henry County 2020 Census quilt square artist. “I loved creating this quilt square although it was a challenge for me,” she said. “Up to this point in my quilting experience all my work has been for family or myself, with a few creations entered in the KEHA Cultural Arts competition. The challenge was knowing my work would travel across the state as part of a quilt to be seen by hundreds of people. So of course I wanted to do a really good job.”
She was asked by Terry Heffley, the Henry County Homemakers president, to make the quilt square. Moore consulted with her husband, Steve, a retired Agricultural Extension Agent from Henry County. “I asked Steve during his 40 years of traveling the roads of Henry County what stood out to him as Henry County farmland.”
Cindy Moore poses with the Henry County quilt square and the entire Kentucky Extension Census Quilt.
His immediate response was “a black tobacco barn, a plowed field with tobacco and a big old sugar maple tree! He later added a pond for fishing,” she said.
Her husband drew a pencil sketch, and Moore cut out a pattern and used fabric she had in her fabric stash. “I embroidered the flowers and the plowed field is brown corduroy. I added extra borders and embroidery to my square.”
Henry County Homemakers have five clubs and currently 113 members. Moore said the KEHA raises money each year for the University of Kentucky Ovarian Cancer Research, so “we decided to make postcards to sell and give all the proceeds to Ovarian Cancer Research. This project was so much fun to do, especially for a worthwhile purpose.”
• You can view the entire quilt on the Internet at keha.ca.uky.edu.
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