Stories, love for quilting shared

Joan Douglas’ “crazy quilt” was made by either her grandmother or great aunt more than 80 years ago. The inspiration for Sally Raino’s quilt was borne from a picture her son drew at school. And one of Mary Rooker’s quilts was made for a family reunion.

“Every quilt is different and every quilt has a story,” said Jean Mead.

Nearly two dozen quilters and rug hookers from Whitehall and beyond shared their stories, some by spoken word and others through a patchwork of cotton and wool, during last weekend’s Whitehall Quilt Show.

Some had come to display their products, others came to gaze in wonder and still others come looking for answers.

Jean Griffin was one of the latter. She hadn’t brought a quilt she spent hours meticulously stitching together; instead she brought something far more valuable. She had with her a family heirloom, a quilt passed down through the generations. But there was one lingering question: Just how old was the quilt?

So Griffin, a Whitehall resident, made the short drive to the high school to have the quilt appraised by Kathryn Greenwold, a certified quilt appraiser from Niskayuna. By looking at the characteristics of the quilt — materials, stitches, craftsmanship — Greenwold can determine the approximate age of a quilt.

And after spending a few moments inspecting Griffin’s quilt, she concluded the quilt was most likely made in the 1880s.

“That history is very valuable to me,” Griffin said.

The Whitehall Quilt Show is typically held every two years and is hung by Landmark Stitches, a group Carol Greenough describes as “friends who have been quilting for years,” and is meant to be a celebration of the craft and art of quilting and rug hooking.

The Whitehall High School gymnasium was transformed into a colorful tapestry of fabric. Three makeshift aisles were erected, running the length of the gym. Quilts hung from racks made by Jim Beckwith and from wood donated by Harold Book. Those that wouldn’t fit hung from bleachers on the west end of the gym. At either end were vendors offering a veritable treasure trove of quilting products: rolls of fabric, how-to books, design templates, thread and high-tech sewing machines worth more than some used cars.

There were quilts that would drape over the edge of the largest beds and others that were never meant to be on a bed at all. There were quilts with intricate designs and whimsical scenes; quilts that had family portraits woven into the fabric; quilts that were hand stitched, and others that were sewn together with something called a “long arm quilting machine.” In all there were 42 quilts and 26 wall hangings. And Sue Lawler, from Manchester, VT., brought 29 hooked rugs as well, including one of a chicken that was wrapped around a wire basket so it was three-dimensional.

There was a fashion show by Eleanor Levie, an author of needlework and craft books, and Shannon Duell from Adirondack Quilts demonstrated the use of digital quilting machines that give users the ability to precisely set the number of stitches per inch. Members of the Whitehall High School cheerleading squad served patrons snacks and refreshments.

Mead, a quilter, and Lawler, a rug hooker, said they hope events like this will help encourage younger generations to become involved in the craft. With proper training, it doesn’t take long to learn, they said.

“We got to keep it alive. Once it (quilting) gets you, it’s got you,” Mead said.

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