Putting Together Masterpieces: Quilters Share Their Art at Quilt Show

People with a gift for picking up the pieces and putting them together displayed their creations at the gathered at the fifth annual Cabin Quilters’ quilt show in Bartonville, just outside of Peoria, Ill. The artform is something that’s been passed down. The show featured nearly 70 handmade and machine-quilted creations by club members.
Fran Slater, 75, of Peoria nearly could keep her excitement in check. “I just love these quilt shows. I’m like a kid in a candy store,” Slater said. She said quilting is, for her, nearly an addiction. “If I don’t get to my machine, I just don’t feel right,” Slater said.

Cabin Quilters club historian Kathy Henderson, 55, who lives between Bartonville and Glasford, said necessity and nostalgia inspired her to quilt. Henderson said her grandmother left behind about 10 unfinished quilt tops that held memories.

“I could see dresses and shirts Grandma had made,” Henderson said, referring to the fabric used. Henderson recalled her grandmother making quilts and clothing on a treadle sewing machine. “I can’t paint. But, I feel like this is our creative outlet,” Henderson said, of herself and fellow quilt club members. She said, like her grandmother, she machine-quilts. Doing it by hand just isn’t her style. “It’s too slow for me,” Henderson said.

Club President Cheryl Mangold of Bartonville, 58, also said her grandmother’s love of quilting rubbed off on her. Since Mangold’s grandmother lived far away, Mangold said she only saw the finished product — not how her grandmother created it. Mangold said failure to find quilts she liked and the featuring colors she liked and a desire to leave a legacy behind inspired her to quilt. “I just started having grandkids and thought I better start quilting,” she said.

Retired schoolteacher Delores Haller of Bartonville, 73, said her mother as well as her maternal and paternal grandmothers quilted. “They used to put it in the quilt frame. When I was kid, we used to have fun playing underneath the quilt,” Haller said. According to Haller, her quilt collections includes ones dating back to the early 1900s. Haller said keeping her quilting experience full of variety has helped maintain her interest. “Sometimes, you look for a pattern that’s challenging,” she said.

A wall hanging, which Haller’s mother pieced in the 1940s, was featured in the show. “When I look (at it), I can see pieces of clothing that I wore when I was a kid,” Haller said. She stressed it was a genealogical artifact. “It’s just good memories of the family,” Haller said. Her grandmother’s love of quilting, Ida Picco of Bartonville, 52, said she inspired Picco to use fabric to make masterpieces. Picco said the double wedding ring quilt, which her grandmother gave her in 1973, is among her most prized possessions. Her grandmother, Picco said, used a treadle sewing machine to piece quilts for other people and make clothes to help raise her six children. But her grandmother, Picco said, isn’t her only source of inspiration. According to Picco, a high school teacher, her workplace has given her a place to employ her talents. Making baby quilts for colleagues has given her a lot of practice, she said.

A higher power has also been an inspiration. “I think the biggest challenge is the banners I make for my church,” Picco said, referring to Bartonville United Methodist Church. Getting the the banner’s message was clear was that challenge. The banner features a sunrise over cross, with strips of satin that represent the whips used on Jesus. That banner usually hangs over the church’s altar. Picco said she considers her quilting expertise a blessing. “Quilting, in itself, is a gift you are given,” she said. But quilting isn’t just for women’s.

John Marquis, 55, of Peoria — Picco’s boyfriend of 25 years — has learned to love Ida’s interest. “I’m in a world of sewing. I’m not afraid to sew. Since I’m around it all the time, I just do it,” Marquis said. He said he’s quilted for nearly two years. According to Marquis, he knew how to sew before meeting Picco. But Marquis credited her with mentoring him.
“She kind of fine-tuned me,” Marquis said. She and Marquis, Picco said, have quilted together and noted a couple of those quilts were in Saturday’s show. An “Elizabeth Sampler” quilt, which Marquis hand-quilted, was also on display. He made the quilt for Jean Sigulas of Peoria, a widow for whom he’d done some handyman work.

“It’s not a quilt, unless it’s handmade,” Marquis said, noting Sigulas’ opinion. He said it took him 40 days to complete Sigulas’ quilt. “I think enough of her to do this,” Marquis said. Slater was impressed. “This is great for a beginner,” Slater said, before wondering out loud whether it had been made on a machine. “There is not a machine stitch on it,” Picco said, proudly. Sigulas, who was unsure which quilt was hers, searched the show for it. That search didn’t take long. “I saw it right away. My eye drew right to it,” she said, after Marquis made certain she knew which one was her quilt.

Discovering her quilt nearly overwhelmed Sigulas. “John, can I hug you?” she asked, after examining her gift. The quilt is an heirloom that she’ll always cherish, Sigulas said . “I love (the quilt) because John means so much to me,” she said.
Marquis isn’t the only loved one with whom Picco quilts. She and her mother, 81-year-old Ethel Picco, create together.
“She and I spend a lot of time together,” Ethel said.

While, Ethel said, she’s quilted for nearly a decade, she’s been a Cabin Quilters member for only three years.