Members of the Midway Nursing Home Task Force’s new quilt committee preview several of the heirloom and newer quilts to be shown at the group’s Dec. 1 quilt show. From left are Carol Bowls, Judy Offutt, Doris Nave, Sara Hicks and Melinda Routh. (Photo by Stephen Burnett)
By Stephen Burnett
With plans well under way, funds raised and a federal loan approved for The Homeplace retirement center in Midway, the Midway Nursing Home Task Force could have declared victory and disbanded the volunteer group that has been together for more than 10 years.
But not yet, several group members recently said. Instead, they’re assembling a new event to raise more funds for the planned elder-care facility near Midway College: a day-long quilt show.
It will begin 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at the old Depot restaurant building in downtown Midway. Visitors who pay $10 admission will be entered in a drawing for a handmade Ohio Rose quilt. Walking in, they will meet groups of local quilters, actively stitching and ready to answer questions. Further back, guests will find the star attraction: dozens of quilts, all on loan from group members and other Midway residents, and all of them with hidden stories.
Member Melinda Routh brought her personal historical artifact: a small, pale blue quilt with intricate stitching on both sides. “It’s my baby quilt,” she said. “My mother brought me home from the hospital in this quilt. And I brought my girls home from the hospital.
“Quilts are an emotional thing. I think you need to understand that, that quilts are not just a piece of fabric. They evoke emotion. Really, they do. Memories and emotion.”
“My mother made both of these,” member Doris Nave said, and added that those quilts were made from ribbons that had been used at the funeral members of two family members. “They’re just keepsakes. They’re not to use. … It’s been a long time. I got them out for this.”
Nave has also made two newer quilts, which she had originally thought to donate to the first Homeplace residents. Instead she decided to sell them at the show, and donate the proceeds.
Only recently did the nursing home group begin patching together its quilt concept. Midway merchants have already been holding nursing home-promotion days for about ten years, member Sara Hicks said, and this time it made sense to try something different.
“We’re having a lot of fun,” member Helen Rentch said. “We’re just excited.”
They started only about a month ago. Member Judy Offutt said they remain undaunted by assurances that groups need at least a year to plan such events in advance.
In late September, retirement center nonprofit developer Christian Care Communities and Midway College announced the start of the project’s public-funding phase. About 500 people and groups had pledged a total of $1.5 million, about 75 percent of the final figure. At that time, Christian Care said it needed to raise $400,000 more before construction. Since then, members said, another donor’s significant pledge has reduced that amount even lower.
“What we hope to make from this, we have no idea,” Offutt said. “But it’s not just about the money; it’s also about awareness for the project.” Every time members ask someone in the community to participate, that also raises their awareness of the fundraising effort, she added.
“Some of them are very valuable, but people are being very generous,” Carol Bowls said.
Quilts have been loaned by many friends and neighbors in the city, Hicks explained. Group members had decided to travel the town’s streets, trying to remember who presently lives or used to live where, then asking those residents if they had quilts to borrow. At first seeking 100 quilts seemed ambitious. But with a limit of two per person, they will be able to find them.
The effort has helped them remember not only area residents, but the tales of their quilts. They’re remembering mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers who assembled the fabrics and hand-stitched them together, individually or together, without machine aid.
“My Aunt Joyce made [mine],” Routh said. “She made it for her children, and then sent it on to her mother for me to have, and then I used it for my two daughters.”
Nave recalled a local Baptist church’s quilting days. Women would come to quilt on both sides, using the stand-up quilting frames of the era. “They could roll them both back, so they could work on both sides, and women would line up on both sides of the quilt,” she said. “We kids went with our mothers, and we played while our mothers quilted.”
Many women said they hand-make their own quilts. Routh said machine-quilting is all she can handle now; hand-stitching tends to be too hard on her fingers.
Similarly, the quilts themselves are fragile. That has led members to discuss how best to keep the quilts safe, hang them properly, and use the right size of any pins to ensure they don’t damage the fabric, Hicks said. “We’re going to treat them like treasures. That’s what they are.”
“Little bit of tatter!” Routh said, touching her blue baby quilt. “I didn’t notice it until now.”
Covering the town
Since the initial Saturday quilting show plans, the concept has continued to spread. Midway’s restaurants have joined in the promotion, with 815 Prime offering a $25 luncheon that same Saturday, along with a talk by Kentucky Arts Council director Lori Meadows. Two days previous — Thursday evening, Nov. 29 — Heirloom Restaurant will host a pre-show dinner. Seating for $50 will be at 5 and 7 p.m., with reservations available by calling Heirloom at 859-846-5565.
Items will also be for sale inside the quilt show, such as quilting books and ornaments. If you have your own quilt whose patterns and history you would like to learn, Judy Rector, a quilt historian from Berea, will be there to inspect that quilt and tell what she knows — whether it is a Texas Rose, Ohio Rose, or Texas Star pattern, and when and how it might have been made.
Visitors will also be able to see vintage quilt frames and sewing machines.
If the event is a success, it could bring similar endeavors, members said. That could include cooperation with the Woodford County Quilt Trail, a book about local quilting and quilts, and even another quilt show to come. The December show could be the inaugural show, they said.
“We hope that people will just have a lovely day in Midway,” Offutt said.