Annual quilt show brings a sense of warmth to Community Library of Allegheny Valley's Harrison branch
Megan Vance says quilting is downright contagious.
“Once you get the bug, you don't want to stop,” says the Natrona Heights resident who enjoys embracing various forms of creativity including writing, calligrapher and painting.
As a quilter, she feels part of a tradition that has passed down through families through the decades.
“I have quilts from my grandma and from my aunts in Iowa. It helps me remember them,” says Vance, 54, herself a mother and grandmother.
When she completes a quilt, she says, she hopes people will sense “that a lot of love went into it.”
Her new grandson, Eli Vance of East Vandergrift, is the most recent recipient of her talents, an elephant-themed baby quilt for his nursery
It will be among the many labors of love displayed at the 19th annual quilt show at Community Library of Allegheny Valley's Harrison branch in Natrona Heights, Jan. 21 through Feb. 25. Visitors once again can cast “People's Choice” votes for their favorite quilt in various categories.
“The quilts show many different methods of quilting as well as creativity down through the years,” says Kathy Firestone, library director. “I think people appreciate the hard work, love, history and artistry that each quilt brings to the show. Personally, that is why I love the quilts.”
Having the show in the winter months adds another dimension, she says, “the feeling of warmth each quilt brings to the observer and probably to its creator in a very personal way.”
Vance once worked at the library and recalls, “I enjoyed how the hanging quilts really brightened up the place during the cold chill of January and February.”
Katie Vance, baby Eli's mom, says, “Quilting is a way of telling a story. For us, it is a story about the birth of our son. The quilt becomes a conversation piece as we tell others the story behind its creation and the loving hands that made it. Sure you can buy a quilt at the store, but to have one made for you, especially by someone you love, is absolutely priceless.”
She sees mother-in-law Megan Vance's quilt for Eli as “a one-of-a-kind gift that was labored over, prayed over and made with so much love. That is why we featured the quilt in our newborn photos, as a way of showing it off to our family and friends.”
She hopes that one day Eli will be able to use it with his children. “Megan also made a quilt for our first son, Peter. Now that he is grown, we have it tucked away for us to pass on to him,” she says.
Creativity has no limits, as demonstrated by the show at the library, as well as other local quilt shows, says Dorothy O'Donnell of Brackenridge. She won't be entering work at the library this year, as she has in the past, but she will be an appreciative visitor to the show.
“I recommend people going to the library to see the quilts. It is an exhibit of many talents and all can benefit from the cheerful colors and creative work of others. It is a nice, local show,” she says.
She and her twin sister, Dolly Templeton of Ebensburg, enjoy the art found in many forms of quilting, from bed covers to wall hanging, table runners, placemats, Christmas stockings, tree skirts, ornaments and purses.
“We still prefer the hand-quilting method, but admit that machine quilting is much faster,” O'Donnell says. Her sister belongs to a group that meets weekly at a member's residence to work on a quilt, and they all inspire each other with ideas and new techniques and methods, she adds.
O'Donnell remembers both of her grandmothers hosting quilting bees when she was a young girl. “They would invite their friends and relatives to come for a day or two and they would feed them meals as their appreciation for all of their help. It served as a social time as well as much needed help in turning out a finished project quickly,” she says. “I can remember being asked if I wanted to put a few stitches in and I really enjoyed being part of such a beautiful and functional form of art.”
Her mother began quilting after raising her nine children and now has quilts on all six beds in her farmhouse in Nicktown, Cambria County. “She is 95 now and still makes a baby quilt for each of her 42 grandchildren having new babies,” O'Donnell says.
Kathryn “Kay” McMahon of Frazer does not quilt but has entered works by her cousin, former Turtle Creek resident Priscilla Naworski of Santa Rosa, Calif., the past two years.
She is entering a machine-stitched lap quilt this year, given bu to her older sister Anne Belitskus of South Fayette, by Naworski.
Belitskus, formerly of Frazer, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2011 and is in remission now. “Priscilla knew Anne loves to garden and did a nice hodge-podge quilt of vegetables and farm animals,” McMahon says. “The quilts are made with love and we think of Priscilla whenever we use them, especially because she lives so far away and we don't get to see her that often.”
Debby Lesney, 68, of Frazer, has been quilting for more than 20 years and began making baby quilts for family and friends with the newborn's name embroidered on the border. Making table runners, placemats and wall hangings as gifts are her main focus. “It's fun and helps pass the Pennsylvania winters,” she says.
“Visiting the library's quilt show was an annual ‘get out of the house' winter day with my mother, who was a seamstress at Hart's Department Store in New Kensington,” Lesney says. “I am so grateful she (the late Rose Hecker of Arnold) passed on her love of sewing to my sister and me. It is now a family tradition.”
Lesney entered a work she calls “Countryside Cottage.”
“I hope when people look at a quilt they smile, enjoy the wonderful colors and shapes sewn in a pattern and feel a sense of warmth just by sight,” Lesney says.
Quilts are being accepted through Jan. 20; contact Katie Myser at 724-226-3491 or email@example.com
Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.