The beauty of quilts and their makers is on display at festivals across the state.
Memories are stitched into quilts. Or at least, that’s how Fran Kordek of Elkins feels when she’s creating them.
Every year, approximately 1,000 quilters from all over the state meet at the Summersville Arena and Conference Center for the WV Quilt Festival to see the latest trends, share designs, and catch up as old friends. Folks in this tight-knit group find themselves immersed in the craft for different reasons. As an active member of the WV Quilt Guild almost since its start in 1993, Fran remembers making the warm, colorful blankets when her children suffered from health problems many years ago. “Quilting was an escape for me,” she says. “The very first quilt I ever made was completely done by hand. I have memories of my oldest daughter learning to walk and putting a quilt square on her head. All of those memories are in that quilt.” Fran went on to teach both of her daughters the art, and the blankets from childhood went with the girls to college. “That is what keeps quilting alive—the fact that you can be creative and make something really special for someone you love, and it can be passed down from generation to generation.”
Every year, the WV Quilt Festival is a chance for quilters to get together. This year, the classes, displays, and fellowship will take place from June 21 to 23, 2012. “Inspiration comes from looking at these quilts. There’s a wide range of skills and a very wide range of styles—from very traditional to very contemporary to art quilts,” says Fran, also a certified National Quilting Association teacher and judge. “Sitting back and listening to the hum of the people there, it’s just thrilling.”
Nancy Ray, president of WV Quilters (the state guild with nearly 300 members), says the annual festival is like a homecoming for women and men of all ages across the state. “It’s lots of fun. When we go to Summersville in June, I see people I haven’t seen all year sometimes.”
Nancy and her husband are retired army officers who moved to New Martinsville about eight years ago, and quilters in West Virginia were among the first friends she made.
She says festivalgoers can expect more than 20 vendors, rotating classes, auctions, and general display, as well as a chance to try quilting, perhaps, for the first time. This year, a special exhibit will be on display, showing off a large, quilted depiction of “The Last Supper.” The quilt was made by a man in Texas and has traveled all over the world.
Pat Gray, on the executive board of The Millennium Quilters of Harrison County, attends her local group’s festival as well as the state festival every year. She says many of the Harrison County group’s members enter quilts in both contests. The Millennium Quilters’ show will take place July 27 and 28 at Bridgeport Conference Center and is also open to anyone from the state. Its format is similar to the state festival, with auctions and vendors. The Millennium Quilters started in 2000 and has grown to 50 members. Each year, the group—made up of grandmothers, daughters, young professionals, and men—donates quilts to charities like Ronald McDonald House, CASA, and homebound senior citizens.
Pat says quilting draws many types of people in. “It’s one of those crafts that was dormant, but in the last 25 years it’s been revived. It’s an outlet for people’s creativity. We get hooked on the colors and the patterns.”
Whether in Bridgeport or Summersville, Pat says there is something for everyone at the festivals. People like her love it all. “Some people just enjoy seeing what can be done—quilts for beds, for walls, to wear. Personally, I even have quilts I’ve made into shower curtains,” she laughs. “My daughter says if you come to my house, you might get woven or quilted yourself.”