Local quilters are hoping that the long, cold, wet winter is over and that a mixture of love of quilting and cabin fever will spur residents to get out and attend the 23rd Annual Sunflower Piecemakers Quilt Show May 5.


Local quilters are hoping that the long, cold, wet winter is over and that a mixture of love of quilting and cabin fever will spur residents to get out and attend the 23rd Annual Sunflower Piecemakers Quilt Show May 5.
Shirley Vandenbrink, a volunteer at the guild, and at home, a self-described ‘jack/queen of all trades and master of none,’ says the show will be a chance for quilters to enjoy the appreciation from the general public for their work, which in turn encourages them to be even more creative and productive. “We have many talented members in our guild but some of them are quite shy about showing their work,” says Shirley.
This year the show is featuring the Quilted Chair Affair, which will showcase chairs that have been re-upholstered in quilted blocks or painted in the same manner as a barn quilt. Some of the chairs will be for exhibit only and others will be for sale.

Members from the Leavenworth/Lansing-based guild will have lots of new quilts to be viewed, plus a boutique, new and used books and magazines for sale, and tickets for their ‘awesome opportunity’ quilt, the proceeds of which support the guild’s speakers and workshops. There will be many beautiful, handmade quilts exhibited by guild members. The vendor mall will offer a wide variety of sewing and related items.

The Quilted Chair Affair will offer unique works of art. “These are chairs with wooden seats,” says Shirley. “For someone who likes to paint rather than piece fabric, you would draw your quilt block on the chair seat and paint the quilt block. As you drive around the countryside, you will see more and more wooden quilt blocks on the sides of barns and garages. The barn quilt on my garage is the Dutchman's puzzle block because my last name happens to be Dutch. Often we become bored with our furniture and decide it needs a new look, or it seriously needs to be recovered. I personally have done several chairs for the fun of it. It is a great way to use orphan blocks or to incorporate your love of quilting into your home decor. The quilted chairs can certainly be works of art, very detailed, or very simple — whatever you like. The chairs are definitely usable. Many of the chairs will be for sale that day.”

Some people think quilting is strictly for grannies, but demand is high for old-fashioned patchwork quilts and also creative, modern pieces. Just as knitting saw a resurgence in popularity recently, quilting is attracting a new generation of artists, lured by its calming benefits and one-of-a-kind results. Sales of quilting machines continue to rise and while machine-made quilts are popular, homemade pieces are coveted. The art of quilting dates back to the ancient Egyptians and today quilts are popular items in the general art world.
The Sunflower Piecemakers Quilt Guild of Leavenworth and Lansing has 75 members and there are many more quilters in the area who are avid quiltmakers but are not members of the guild.

“Quilting is attracting a younger generation,” says Shirley. “This may be in part to a segment of the population who didn’t learn to sew in school. These women, (mostly women, but some young men too) now have homes and families of their own and they are interested in home decorations and making things for their families. As they wade into the sewing field some are naturally migrating to quilting as a hobby.”
While some people make quilts because it was learned and passed down from family members, Shirley says that is now rare.
She believes that quilting is much more about the process. “People say they quilt to relax, to take their mind off their worries, to express themselves creatively, or just to have something to do with their hands. Memory quilts and T-shirt quilts are very popular because the quilt  becomes an heirloom — your memories and your life in the quilt. ‘Modern’ quilts are becoming very popular these days.”

Shirley began quilting in 2000 because she loved to sew — and also to keep her elderly mother busy.
“She has since passed, and I have many memories of sewing with her, the satisfaction of seeing a finished project, and the joy of quilting all the tops she has left behind,” says Shirley. “Socializing and quilting go hand in hand and it never hurts to throw in a bit of food. My favorite quilt is one that I pieced for my mom. She had made nine patch blocks and each seam allowance was different. She was in her 80s, how could I have her redo them? So I took a wonky block ruler and recut the blocks and pieced them all together and it is my absolute favorite. There are quilters who are beginners, intermediate, and advanced, but bottom line is it is a work of the heart that comes alive once it is quilted.”

Artists and artisans have long known that creating something with your hands is a great contributor to overall well being, while the social aspects of quilting probably greatly enhance mental well being.
For quilters who are older and live alone or at a great distance from family members, the time devoted to quilting can offer a great respite from loneliness.
Guilds and quilt shows allow these people to share their work, meet new, like-minded people, and enjoy the

company of others in quilt groups that meet regularly.
Choosing colors for an intricate design is one of the biggest challenges that quilters face. “As women we have to constantly remind ourselves, and our quilting friends, to trust our instincts on color and fabric selections but when we are new to a craft like quilting we can become intimidated by the process,” says Shirley. “Don't become intimidated.”
Depending on the complexity of a design, the techniques and the quilter’s skill level, some simple patterns can

be made in an afternoon and quilted on a machine. But more intricately patterned quilts can take years to complete if hand-quilting and hand-applique is involved.
Shirley and other local quilters are hoping the community will come out and support the show.
“The quilt show is free admission and a feast for the eyes,” says Shirley. “Visitors can vote for their favorite quilts. Our local quilters always exhibit very beautiful quilts that rival the work of larger guilds in the Greater Kansas City Area and beyond. We routinely hear comments from community members that they are amazed at the skill level right here in the Leavenworth/Lansing area. The boutique and used book and magazine sale raises funds to support the work the guild members do, including making quilts and pillowcases for those in need right here in our community. We give away approximately 100 each fall to those in need. We also sell tickets on our ‘opportunity’ quilt which also funds our speakers. It only  takes one ticket to win.”
For Shirley, quilting has allowed her to not only share her unique creations, but also to cuddle up with her ‘works of the heart’ and wrap herself in the memories that each one provides.

“I would say that most quilters feel a joy in their finished work. Others might say I'll never do that pattern again or I want to make another one right away. Others may be crying because that finished quilt is so full of memories.”