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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Who knew there were so many quilters and quilt enthusiasts in the Colfax area?
When Sue Hill got the idea to hold a Quilt Review at her Tapestry Trunk Bed & Breakfast on Saturday, November 23, she was not expecting 53 quilts, and that’s not counting the table runners, wall hangings and other quilted items people brought.
“Instead of ‘build it and they will come.’ It’s ‘quilt it and they will come,’” said Hill, the owner and the innkeeper at the Tapestry Trunk, located on Pine Street in Colfax..
“People would call and say they had a quilt, ‘but it’s nothing fancy.’ And then it would be this absolutely gorgeous quilt,” she said.
Quilts were on display on every available surface in the B&B. There were quilts spread across couches, beds, chairs, tables and stools — and even on the electric fireplace in the living room.
To be on the safe side, Hill noted, she had unplugged the fireplace.
One of the beds had layers of quilts. Hill secured the assistance of several people throughout the day to help her do a “turning” for visitors so they could see the different quilts. Hill and her assistants wore white cotton gloves, of course, to avoid damaging the quilts.
The oldest of the quilts were 75 or 80 years old.
Many of the quilts were of significance to local Colfax history, such as the quilt brought by Joyce Bates that had been quilted by Jennie Chase.
Jennie Chase was Joyce Baits’s great-great-great aunt.
Jennie and her husband, A.C., started the Colfax Messenger in 1897.
Another quilt on display, a Double Wedding Ring design, belonged to Hill and had been acquired at a Norton Church bazaar 30-some years ago.
The quilt — actually the quilt top — had been in a “hope chest.” The woman passed away, and the quilt was donated to the church, Hill said, adding that if anyone has information about who the quilt may have originally belonged to, she would love to know.
Another of the quilts, a Dresden Plate design, had been made by Hill’s grandmother, Martha Rosenberg Hill.
“We don’t know for sure when it was made. She died in 1950 and died as a result of a car accident in Florida,” Hill said.
Martha’s picture and a picture of Hill’s Aunt Helen were on display next to the Dresden Plate quilt.
“Aunt Helen was the oldest granddaughter here, so she inherited the quilt. They had given it to the New Richmond Historical Society at one time, but they got it back, and Helen gave it to Nancy Johnson. It’s Dresden Plate, and it’s all hand-stitched,” she said.
The stitching on the quilt background is criss-cross in small squares.
“It’s looks like a mattress pad, but it’s all hand-stitched. It’s a spectacular quilt. We have no idea, but it’s got to be close to 80 years old,” Hill said.
The quilts on display included those made of well-known historical patterns and quilts named for an image or a feeling they invoked.
Local quilt maker Pat Eggert brought a number of quilts for the event, including a Friendship Star quilt and one quilt named Cranberry Chutney.
Another of Eggert’s quilts was made from men’s shirts.
Colfax resident Sally Johnson brought three quilts and is currently making Valor quilts.
One of Johnson’s quilts was “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.”
Another of the quilts was made from Johnson’s late husband’s t-shirts (Pete/Glen Johnson).
One quilt was Colfax resident Mary Fennie’s “birthday quilt.”
“On her 70th birthday, her daughters sent letters (or e-mails) to tell people to make a six-inch quilt square for her birthday. Mary had to sew it together, but she got many, many, quilt squares, enough to make a quilt and a half,” Hill said.
Another quilt at the Quilt Review was from Popple Creek Church. The quilt is inscribed in stitching with the names of church members and includes Beyrers and Buchners.
Another of the Popple Creek Church quilts, Hill noted, is on display in the hallway at the Colfax Municipal Building.
Old and new
While some of the quilts were old, some have also been quilted recently, such as Troy and Michelle Knutson’s wedding quilt made by Troy’s cousin, who recorded the making of the quilt and then had a book made about sewing the quilt.
The quilt, based on the Underground Railroad, contains quilt squares of images representing a symbol in the Underground Railroad story.
“It’s pretty fabulous. One is Bear Paw. Another one is Flying Geese,” Hill noted.
Underground Railroad symbols were secret codes, words and signs used to pass messages to and from slaves and the people who were helping them to escape through the Underground Railroad.
Quilt symbols were put into quilts that were hung on clotheslines to pass messages.
The Flying Geese are a symbol for “north.” The Bear Paw conveys a message to take a mountain route. The Bow Tie symbol meant it was necessary to change from slave clothing. The North Star symbol indicated the way to freedom.
Hill also had books about quilting on display.
“I was joking, but it was the truth. I said I stopped quilting and started reading books about quilting. The history is fascinating,” she said.
Hill’s books include the Jennifer Chiaverini books about quilts and quilting, the Elm Creek Quilt novels, which include “The Giving Quilt,” “The Quilter’s Kitchen,” and the “The Wedding Quilt.”
The books are stories about a quilting camp in Pennsylvania, and the stories go back to the Civil War, Hill said.
“I started reading them instead of quilting — reading about somebody else quilting,” she said.
All in all, Hill’s Quilt Review at the Tapestry Trunk Bed & Breakfast was a success.
“It’s really amazing, the local history of the quilts and the quilting,” she said.