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TideWriters Tales

Celebrating the Past, Present & Future

My Quilting Adventures~Learning Something New in My Old Age

By Jane Fahey

    My quilting adventure started in 1999 when I moved to the Northern Neck. My idea was I would render all my old clothes into squares, compliment the squares with left over fabric from my children’s homemade clothes and wow the world with my quilts.

    A neighbor, wonderful new friend, and experienced quilter, Faye Page, introduced me to the Rice’s Hotel/Huglett’s Tavern (RH/HT) Quilt Guild and my education began. I attended my first Guild meeting in the Historical Society Building in Heathsville.

    Chatting, constantly sewing, friendly women displayed their talents with ‘Show and Tell’ while conducting the business of projects to support the Tavern. I met two new quilters. We sat and watched and wondered. Each month a new patterned square was displayed and everyone was encouraged to try her talents at making the pattern to be shown at the next month’s meeting. At the next meeting, everyone who completed a patch had her name placed in a drawing and the winner received all the patches and was expected to make a quilt. It presented a daunting task for a new comer who had never quilted. My old clothes didn’t look like the fabric in those patches, either.

    These wonderful chatty women took us under their wings like mother hens and we were invited to visit their Bee. A Bee is a smaller group of sewing ladies, working on personal projects, the monthly patch, or a group project. Bees meet in libraries, churches, homes, club houses and anywhere they can sit and sew and talk. At the Bee I found out that the material used in the patches is purchased especially for quilting and every quilter has a personal ‘stash’, a collection of ‘fat quarters’ of a multitude of colors and patterns. So much for using old clothes. Then there are the needles for hand quilting, machine sewing or quilting and the different weights of thread. Who knew there was so much to learn?

    My new friend, Faye, came to my rescue again by introducing me to the Quilt Festival that was held during February in Williamsburg each year. Now it is held in Hampton at the Convention Center. Twenty-five thousand people attend this Quilt Festival. There are classes, vendors and a marvelous display of quilts. The first time I went I overloaded on classes, couldn’t remember the exciting quilts I’d seen and wanted to buy one of everything. It was like trying to remember every detail of a baby’s cute toddler years without photographs. Impossible!!

Hampton Quilt Show Photos
by Jane Fahey

    In the eight years I have been associated with these exciting women, several Quilt Guilds have started in the region. One group is located in Reedville. I joined this group in 2004 as well as the Tavern Guild. Each group offers a unique experience. I have discovered I am not very patient with putting together lots of little corners and making neat patterns. My preference is to use fabric as an art medium and make landscape quilts.

    A group of eight women were rounded up by Elizabeth Schamber to stretch our skills with a “Slice and Dice” project. We went in search of a picture we could ‘slice’ so each person could reproduce her piece in any manner she wanted. Tippie DeLeo showed us Renoir’s “Boating Party” that the group selected for ‘Slicing and Dicing’. Elizabeth sought and was granted permission by the Phillip’s Art Collection for us to reproduce this picture. The picture was sliced into eight pieces. Each person assigned a piece. We agreed ahead of time to not discuss with each other the techniques, fabrics or methods we would use to reproduce our pieces. After five months we would meet and see how well the pieces went together. During the five months we encouraged each other to keep thinking, working and striving toward our goal. More than once I considered asking if someone else could do my part. I felt very new, green, unknowledgeable, bumble fingered, idiotic, scared out of my wits. Here I was a new kid on the quilting block trying to reproduce a masterpiece! What was I thinking? With the constant encouragement of the others I kept at it.

In September of 2005, we met to share our work and were amazed at how well the pieces complimented each other. The title was “Renoir Reassembled” and it was displayed at the December Needle Arts Show at the Reedville Fisherman’s Museum. Fabric, beads, feathers, netting, paints, colored pencils, ribbons, and lace were used. Everyone seemed pleased with the results. Paul DeLeo took pictures of our work of art.

    In 2006, we decided to enter the piece in the Houston International Quilt show that takes place in November. This is a juried show where pictures are submitted and a piece is judged admissible or not. Work is sent from all over the world. Fifty thousand plus people attend this event. Along with the display there are classes and vendors. Elizabeth used Paul DeLeo’s photo, wrote an explanation of our work and submitted it. We waited anxiously to hear how our piece fared with so many excellent submissions. To be judged by one’s peers is anxiety provoking. We made it!!

    Elizabeth Schamber, Shirley Galo, Penelope Mace, and Jane Kimball worked to fasten the individual pieces to a background, package it securely for travel and send it on its way to Houston to be displayed with work from around the globe. The seven others—I stayed home—traveled to the Houston Quilt Festival to take classes, shop the vendors, and view the quilts. What an accomplishment to see your own work among international pieces! Could there be any thing more exciting?

    In February 2007, I again attended the Quilt Festival in Hampton at the Convention Center. This is a huge quilt event for me. Four days of quilts, quilts, quilts, is like going to heaven. Now I have learned to limit the number of classes, take a multitude of digital photos and shop selectively.

    My first day there in February of 2007, I spied a quilt piece that looked suspiciously like the one we did, sporting a First Place Blue Ribbon. Was this a mistake? No, it was our piece. Jane Kimball had submitted the photos and she and Dory Gossman hand carried it to Hampton. All this cooperation from people in this little group is amazing. I must admit I walked around it for a while wondering if that Blue Ribbon was for real. Sure enough, along came a gentleman guide explaining to a group how this prize art was assembled. I got goose bumps listening as someone told our story.

    Twenty-five thousand people attend this Quilt Festival and he would tell them our story! Can it get any better? Wait, there is an award that goes along with this, a letter, judges’ commendations, money and a sewing machine. The congratulatory letter and the judges’ commendations meant a lot. The biggest prize of all is the friendship that grew among us as we completed our goal of stretching our skills. As a novice, I am forever grateful for their patience, encouragement and kind remarks on my paltry endeavors. No amount of money equals that.

    On my wall hangs my piece of the ‘Renoir Reassembled’ along with a copy of the Blue Ribbon, judges’ commendation, and a picture of the entire project. This serves as a reminder of those who graciously helped a neophyte. As for those old clothes, they’re still hanging in the closet.

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