‘Bits & Pieces Quilt Show’

Quilters to converge on
Jefferson Co. Fairgrounds

Homemakers’ annual fundraising event
is popular throughout the region

(April 2014) – Anna Bell laughs, “Everybody’s got to have one good bad habit!”
And for the past several years, area residents have been reaping the benefits of Bell’s “bad habit.” As a quilter in the Jefferson County (Ind.) Extension Homemakers, she’s been part of a group that makes quilts for area newborns, nursing home residents and the families of fallen soldiers. For Bell, the draw of quilting is very simple. “I like the feel of the material. I hand quilt every day. As my legs got weaker, I wanted my hands to stay strong.”


Photo by Lela Bradshaw

From left, Jefferson County Extension Homemakers Anna Bell, Kay Dunham (acting president),
and Marie Black
pose with a quilt.

While Bell says that she has been quilting “all my life,” she does not think that quilters need years of experience to make something beautiful. She smiles, recalling, “I told some teenagers, ‘just start cutting blocks!’ A nine patch is just wonderful to start with,” she says enthusiastically.
Whether you are looking for ideas for a project of your own or just love history and beauty, the 19th Annual Bits and Pieces Quilt show is certain to inspire. Sponsored by the Jefferson County Extension Homemakers, the show is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 12-13 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, located on Hwy. 256. Visitors can enjoy shopping at booths set up by area quilt and fabric shops, put their name in the hat for door prizes or take a chance on winning the raffle quilt.
Admission is $3, with funds raised going toward the scholarships awarded each year to county high schools. “We give back to the community,” says show publicist Marie Black.
Black estimates that there are usually 50 or more quilts on display. Acting Homemakers President Kay Dunham stresses that the show welcomes “anything quilted” and is open to items such as clothing, table runners and miniature quilts in addition to the traditional bed coverings. The event offers a unique view of new and old quilts, allowing visitors to see first-hand how the art has developed over the years. “We’ve had them back to 1847,” says Bell, while others may be finished just days before the show. Quilters and collectors are invited to share their treasures with the community and are also encouraged to tell a bit about what makes each piece so special on information cards that accompany each quilt. “Anyone who has a quilt who would like to show it, there is no charge to show,” says Black. All visitors to the show are allowed to vote for their favorite piece, with awards provided by L&L Yard Goods and Margie’s Country Store presented to the top two items.
The Jefferson County Extension Homemakers has around 40 members, about 12 of whom are active quilters.
Twice a month, the quilters meet to work on the raffle quilt, with hand quilting taking place around a large frame. The project is the result of months of work on the part of Extension members and is one of the major fundraisers for their scholarships. Bell estimates that the quilt is typically started in April or May the year before show.
This year’s queen-sized quilt is from a McCall’s quilt pattern and is made from pastels and Batik fabric. Batiks are popular with many quilters, with hand-dyed colors giving a subtle, almost marbleized effect.
“They are a real pretty material. You have to have an eye to coordinate,” says Black. She credits the group’s tradition of quilting the raffle quilt by hand as opposed to machine to one of the founders of the Bits and Pieces show. “The lady that started it 19 years ago, Alma Spillman, believed in hand quilting,” she says. Black also credits Stella Gray as one of the founders of the show and says, “We have continued what they started.”
Extension members point out that quilting is a craft in which anyone can be involved. While the traditional image of a quilter is a woman, Dunham says that, “I’ve got my husband quilting. He’s made a quilt out of recycled blue jeans.”
Black recalls that a few years ago the show included several quilts by a woman who “was legally blind.” Her husband had configured her sewing machine to allow her to continue making quilts.
The group is always looking for quilters willing to come and help out with the yearly raffle quilt. Dunham encourages everyone interested to come and join in saying, “We’re looking for new people to help quilt. Anyone who wants to come is allowed to sew. We never take anyone’s stitches out.”
Bell believes that crafters of all experience levels would find the sessions very rewarding and shares that, “I learn something almost every time I go even though I have been quilting all my life.”
Dunham stresses the “friendship and camaraderie” as part of what got her involved in the Homemakers group. “I’m the gopher” assisting the more experienced quilters.”

• Quilts will be accepted for display from 3-6 p.m. April 11. For more information on the Jefferson County Extension Homemakers, call (812) 265-8919.

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