Sunday, September 7, 2003
Eighty-three-year-old Shirley Wedd stitched her first quilt for her toddler daughter, Shirlene, some 50 years ago.
Though worn, the red-and-white-checkered child's quilt -- made from feed sacks -- remains a treasured part of the Wedd's quilt collection. But the collection has grown considerably, and, these days, mother and daughter quilt together.
"We really get along," Shirley says.
"There are moments," Shirlene admits. "But if it wasn't fun, we wouldn't do it. We enjoy being able to do it together."
Shirley, of Lawrence, and Shirlene, 53, of Holton, are both members of the Kaw Valley Quilters Guild. Seventeen of the duo's quilts will be featured Saturday and Sunday at the guild's 26th annual quilt show. They'll be part of more than 100 recent quilts on view -- not for sale -- created by guild members.
Shirley, whose son Dirk Wedd is football coach at Lawrence High School, didn't get serious about quilting until 1977. She had worked as a public schools art teacher since graduating from Emporia State University in 1942, and she spent her spare time painting. She tagged along with a friend and took a few quilting classes from well-known Lawrence fabric artist Chris Wolf Edmonds, and she liked it enough that she joined the newly formed Kaw Valley Quilters at their second meeting in 1977.
Shirlene, who teaches kindergarten in Holton but makes it home to quilt with her mother on evenings and weekends, got her first taste of quiltmaking while earning a Girl Scout merit badge in fifth grade. She progressed to stitching patchwork pillows and took classes from Marie Shirer at the former Crewel Cupboard.
Shirley and Shirlene began working together in 1985, making mostly crib quilts for Shirlene's brothers' children. Today, they design their own patterns, like the one they're working on now for the guild's Pattern of the Month.
Don't be fooled by the name. The Wedds' cowboy medallion quilt won't be finished for about a year. They started with the large center block -- a five-pointed star design surrounded by their colorful appliqued interpretations of Kansas wildflowers and a wavering band of yarn barbed wire -- and will reveal a new element to guild members each month until the quilt is complete.
Shirley -- with her art background -- primarily provides artistic inspiration and sketches ideas her daughter dreams up, and Shirlene provides technical expertise. The two still work on their own projects as well.
Though each has a substantial collection of quilts, a lot of their own work ends up spread on the beds, hanging on the walls or stored in the trunks of friends and family.
"I like making things for people," Shirley says. "The people who get our quilts really appreciate them."
Shirlene recalls the first quilts her mother made for grandchildren were actually used.
"As she made these crib quilts, they got nicer," Shirlene says. "As the next grandchild came, they weren't used."
The grandchildren each got another quilt when they reached ninth grade. They weren't allowed to take the handmade blankets to college, despite being very much attached to the quilts. That partiality started early, Shirlene says. She remembers taking her nephew to a quilt show when he was 8 or 9. He knew Grandma's quilts were exceptionally nice, Shirlene says.
"He was so opinionated," she recalls. "He'd say, 'I don't like that one.'"
Like a lot of quilters, the Wedds started out as purists, not wanting a single sewing machine stitch in their quilts.
"At some point, you decide that if you want to get some things done, you find someone who does really nice machine quilting," Shirlene says.
She and her mom recently got their Prairie Flowers quilt back from a machine quilter. It's just as beautiful as any of their hand-quilted pieces, they say.
Though the Wedds are both beyond 50 years old, they're not worried that the art of quilting is dying off with its oldest practitioners.
Some of the Kaw Valley Quilters are in their early 20s.
"It's amazing to me that it continues to be as popular as it is," Shirlene says.