Quilt Crazy: Quilters Create Treasured Pieces For Friends, Family And Good Causes

By The Active Age | May 31, 2024

Peggy Smith, right, made this quilt before her granddaughter, Gabby, left for college at Kansas State University.

Peggy Smith isn’t sure how many quilts she’s made over the years. She stopped counting at 100. Multiplied by the time each required, that’s the equivalent of years of full-time work. Smith considers it time well spent.
“It’s something I taught my daughter to do,” Smith, of Haysville, said. “I’m getting ready to teach my oldest granddaughter. It’s something useful you can do for other people. It’s a way I can show them I love them, that I can do something nice for them. And it keeps me out of my husband’s hair.”
Quilting — an old-fashioned craft often intended as a gift to others — will take center stage June 21-22 at Century II, when the Prairie Quilt Guild presents its Common Threads Quilt Show.
Organizers expect it to be largest such show in the state, with about 400 quilts on display, said Judy Wohlford, who’s on the show’s publicity board. The show, held every two years, will also feature vendors, an antique quilt display and quilt auction, with proceeds going to the guild.

Members of the Prairie Quilt Guild will auction off mini quilts at their Century II show June 21-22.

Wohlford first tried quilting 20 years ago, on a friend’s recommendation. Since retiring a decade ago, she quilts almost daily.
“I just love the creativity of it,” she said. “It’s just a fun hobby to do.”
While Wohlford said she finds quilting relaxing, another guild member says it is literally therapeutic for her.
Stacy Crundell, editor of the guild’s newsletter, started quilting in 2011, teaching herself via YouTube videos.
“I did it for physical therapy because I was diagnosed with MS in 2009, and I had lost a lot of the abilities to do some of the activities that I really had an interest in, like playing sports,” Crundell said. “My doctor said I needed a hobby to take my mind off the hard times.”
“Sometimes I have to look at the instructions 20 or 30 times, but it keeps me motivated,” she added.
The 300-member guild is believed to be the largest in the United States, Crundell said, explaining that larger cities often have several smaller groups. The guild hosts an afternoon and evening meeting on the second Tuesday of each month at Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church, 1600 W. 27th St. N., usually to hear a guest speaker.
Most members are in their 40s and older, although the guild holds a summer quilting camp for kids.
“I think it (quilting) is popular because it still gives them the ability to make something for their families, to create bonds,” Crundell said. “Sometimes they’ve been in a work environment and are just retiring, and they’re looking for something to be a part of. It might be something that their grandmother or mother taught them once upon a time.”
Another guild member, Diana Dobbins, took a quilting class at the Sedgwick County Extension Center about 15 years ago, then joined a quilting bee that meets weekly at the Northeast Senior Center. She will display three quilts at the show, two of which were made by her husband’s grandmother.
“She was born in 1878. She quilted until 1962, that I know of. That’s a long time.”
Quilting is usually defined as the process of joining a minimum of three layers of fabric together, either through stitching manually with needle and thread or mechanically with a sewing machine. But that leaves out the piecing together of the top layer to create a design that is typical of most quilts, Dobbins said.

A large quilt may take a couple hundred hours to complete.

“What quilters do is they take perfectly good yards of fabric, then they cut it up in little pieces, then they sew it all back together,” she said. “It doesn’t quite make sense, but that’s what they do.”
The other thing quilters do is make memories, Dobbins said. When quilts are intended as gifts, quilters often put labels on them with the names of the recipient and giver, date and occasion — “because it’s important for the people that get them and end up passing them down to why they have that quilt. Otherwise, there are antique quilts that have been used in the driveway to change oil.”
Dobbins said her quilting bee is quilting a wall hanging for a Wichita State student from Guatemala who’s become a frequent visitor to the senior center. But quilters often make pieces for the comfort of complete strangers. Dobbins’ group makes baby and youth quilts for local shelters, usually accompanied by a stuffed animal and doll-sized quilt. During the pandemic, guild members made thousands of masks for area hospitals.
Smith has been sewing quilts for the local chapter of an organization called Sleep in Heavenly Peace, an organization that builds and delivers beds to children in need.
Smith said Kansas has a rich heritage of quilting. At one time, the Kansas City Star newspaper was well known for publishing original quilt patterns. The Wichita area, she said, is served by shops such as the Beehive Quilt Shop in Wellington, Charlotte’s Sew Natural in Newton, Field of Fabric Quilt Company in Winfield, Needle in a Haystack in Severy and Picket Fence Quilt Company in Wichita.
Smith is taking an Alaskan cruise with quilting enthusiasts from around the country this summer. And yet, one thing she doesn’t have is a large stash of quilts in her own cedar chest.
“To be honest, I probably only have six or seven quilts at home. I just give them away.”


Common Threads
Quilt Show

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 21-22

Century II, 224 W. Douglas

 $15 per day, $20 for both days