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Local quilters part of West Virginia Sesquicentennial display

August 31, 2013
By Beth Christian Broschart - Staff Writer ( , The Inter-Mountain

Even though the official West Virginia Sesquicentennial celebration has passed, one exhibit, still on display at the Culture Center in Charleston, will remain as a tribute to the milestone and West Virginia for generations to come.

The West Virginia Statehood Sesquicentennial Quilt is just as diverse as those it represents - and it was created by 72 quilters from across the state that invested countless hours of work.

Randall Reid-Smith, Commissioner of the West Virginia Divisions of Culture and History, said the project is a wonderful example of partnerships and he is proud of the quilt because so many West Virginia quilters were involved in its conception and completion.

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The West Virginia Statehood Sesquicentennial Quilt is just as diverse as those it represents — and it was created by 72 quilters from across the state that invested countless hours of work.

"I am grateful to all of the quilters who continue this handcrafted tradition and for the work that we are able to showcase in this project," Reid-Smith said.

Deputy Commissioner Caryn S. Gresham and Director of the Arts Commission Staff Renee Margocee said they traveled throughout West Virginia promoting the quilt project and seeking help getting ideas for the quilt and information about how to get quilters to submit blocks.

"We enlisted help from many quilters and Shop Hop participants to give us an idea of how big the blocks should be and how to proceed," Margocee said. "I love that the quilters used their blocks to speak to the past and present with what they pieced together.

"First, we traveled to the Summersville Quilt Festival where there were many juried quilts and also educational vendors," Margocee said. "One of the problems with the Centennial Quilt is it is so large and hard to display. After the quilters helped us decide the size, we checked with Andover Fabrics, who donated the material for the quilt."

Margocee said the materials included four color scheme fabrics that are Civil War reproductions. Quilters piecing a block can add some of their own fabric. The idea the team wanted was for there to be at least 55 blocks, each representing one of the 55 West Virginia counties.

"So folks signed up to do a block, and we sent them the fabric," Margocee said. "We had 75 blocks, with one representing each county. Some blocks were shuffled so each county had representation."

Fran Kordek, of Elkins, pieced a block representing Randolph County for the Sesquicentennial Quilt.

"I chose to use the log cabin pattern and a maple leaf," Kordek said. "I chose the log cabin to represent the Log Cabin Quilters' Guild of Elkins, and the maple leaf as a symbol of the Mountain State Forest Festival."

Philippi resident Kim Jeffries said she is a relatively new quilter that enjoys the hobby.

"As I thought about the history of Barbour County, I thought of coal mining and railroads, so I chose the railroad crossing block," Jeffries said. "I am thrilled to have my block included on the quilt. I enjoy being part of the history of West Virginia and I am honored to be able to be a part of it - I am also lucky to have friends that quilt as well."

The first quilt Betty Ends made was a Dresden Plate. Ends is from St. George in Tucker County.

"I just love quilting and have quilted since 1974," Ends said. "I have used scraps from my daughter's clothing to make quilts. I do lots of sewing for the Stitching House in Buckhannon and did the Shop Hop. I most recently donated a log cabin quilt made from Civil War reproduction material. The proceeds from the quilt will go to Wounded Warriors and is available at the Patriot Four."

Sandi Blackwell of Wheeling completed a block representing Ohio County.

"I choose the Union Block because it was from the Civil War era and it appealed to me with its simplicity," Blackwell said. "I have been a sewer for most of my life and began quilting in 1992."

In 1996, she started a custom-order quilt business named Stitched Buy. Blackwell's work is available at Tamarack and the Wheeling Artisan Center.

Judy Moyer, from Lost City in Hardy County, said she has been quilting all of her life.

"I was born into a quilting family and am a member of the Lost River Artisan Cooperative," Moyer said.

She said she made her Lost River Valley Block to represent the sky, mountains and the Lost River Valley.

Webster Springs quilter Ann Carpenter submitted Grandma's Flower Basket as her entry for the Sesquicentennial Quilt block.

"I have some quilt blocks my grandmother made," Carpenter said. "She passed away when I was about 12 years old. When I retired from teaching, I made a quilt from the blocks for my sister. I considered doing a few patterns, but decided to use Grandma's Flower Basket as a tribute to my grandmother, Norva Mae Williams."

Carpenter said she began sewing in high school.

"There are not a lot of people who quilt in this area," Carpenter said. "Quilting seems to be a dying art."

Buckhannon resident Barbara Lane chose the Churn Dash Four Patch for her block.

"I wanted to find something from the Civil War era to use for my block," Lane said. "I had to hand cut the squares to convert the pattern to six and a half inches. I enjoyed completing the block and am happy to be a part of history with this quilt."

Majorie Estepp said she was helped by Jo Olliver creating the Garden Path Block.

"Jo chose the pattern because she wanted to use as many of the colors as she could," Estepp said. "We decided to add the chicken in the center block to represent Hardy County."

Estepp said she has been quilting since the 1970s, but has been more consistent with her hobby since 2005.

"We are hoping next year, the Sesquicentennial Quilt will be allowed to leave the Culture and History Center and travel to the Heritage Weekend for display," Estepp said.

After all of the blocks were pieced and submitted back to the Culture and History Center, quilting volunteers spent a day laying out the quilt, and sewing it together. The quilt was then hand-quilted by Joni Hoffman from Duck.

"Joni was the perfect person to finish the quilt," Margocee said. "It took her about three months to complete. Her signature is to stitch a heart in her quilts. Her heart is quilted in the white box in the center of the top right of the quilt."

The West Virginia Statehood Sesquicentennial Quilt was officially unveiled June 19 by First Lady Joanne Tomblin. Quilters gathered at the Culture Center two weeks ago for a tea to celebrate with those completing blocks for the quilt.

"I think this quilt is much nicer than one that is juried," Margocee said. "It's a representation of many quilters in all stages of their quilting experience. That's what makes it great."

Contact Beth Christian Broschart by email at Follow her on Twitter @IMT_Broschart.



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