Huntington County quilters craft piece hailing state’s 200th birthday

With the quilt they created behind them, members of the Piecemakers Quilt Club take pride in their Indiana bicentennial quilt, which depicts all 12 Huntington County townships. Pictured are (front row from left) Alice Roth, of Bippus; Mary Dalrymple, of Huntington; Margaret Nelson, of Columbia City; and Jean Schowe, of Huntington; and (back row from left) Kathleen Scribner, of Huntington; Jan Ballard, of Huntington; Jan Mathias, of Andrews; Valerie Birkhold, of Huntington; Lesa Scott, of Roanoke; and Delene Swing, of Huntington. The quilt is currently on display at the Huntington Branch of the Huntington City-Township Public Library.
With the quilt they created behind them, members of the Piecemakers Quilt Club take pride in their Indiana bicentennial quilt, which depicts all 12 Huntington County townships. Pictured are (front row from left) Alice Roth, of Bippus; Mary Dalrymple, of Huntington; Margaret Nelson, of Columbia City; and Jean Schowe, of Huntington; and (back row from left) Kathleen Scribner, of Huntington; Jan Ballard, of Huntington; Jan Mathias, of Andrews; Valerie Birkhold, of Huntington; Lesa Scott, of Roanoke; and Delene Swing, of Huntington. The quilt is currently on display at the Huntington Branch of the Huntington City-Township Public Library. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published on Sept. 19, 2016.

A group of Huntington County quilters, not to be outdone by what other artists have depicted in observance of Indiana’s bicentennial, have created a quilt depicting 200 years of the county’s history, township by township.

The Piecemakers Quilt Club, a special interest club of the Huntington County Extension Homemakers, came up with the idea for the quilt last fall, after someone at The Forks of the Wabash suggested they get involved in the bicentennial celebration, says Club President Kathleen Scribner.

“It kind of went around the table, and then I said yes, I would do it if I had some help,” she says. “A bunch of hands raised up. They all stepped in and made it happen.”

The club wanted to create a quilt that would tell Huntington County’s story, and that required some research, she said.

“I came into the Indiana Room, and Jean Gernand, several years ago, wrote an article on each township for The TAB,” explained Jan Mathias. “I took those articles and just took things out. Plus, I used the (Frank Sumner) Bash book of some of his articles, and some other history books. I found this map of all the old schools, and printed up a bunch of stuff.”

Mathias came up with 12 packets of information – one for each of Huntington County’s 12 townships, which she passed out to club members. Scribner cut out the quilt blocks forming windowpane-like vie-ws of each township.

“I asked the girls to pick a township, and they were to pull off information that Jan gathered,” Scribner says. “And just depict whatever history they wanted to pull from that and show it on a block. So they each interpreted a block in their own way.”

It took 16 of the 20 members of the club to work on the project. They cannot count the hours they put into the project, which includes research, cutting the fabric, embroidering names of the townships, decorating each block and then piecing it all together.

Delene Swing’s husband, Mark, came up with the idea for the layout of the quilt, suggesting they place the blocks in the same spots the townships are located in the county.

The quilt itself is divided into 15 squares; the top six represent the top six townships, while the bottom six depict the lower townships. The three squares in the middle include pictures of the Huntington County Courthouse, the Indiana bicentennial logo and the embroidered names of the Piecemakers who worked on the project.

Those members are: Jan Ballard, Teresia Beaty, Valerie Birkhold, Suzanne Bryant, Barb Carlin, Mary Dalrymple, Stephanie Jerabek, Jan Mathias, Jennifer Minick, Margaret Nelson, Susie Ray, Alice Roth, Jean Schowe, Lesa Scott, Kathleen Scribner and Delene Swing.

After the blocks were completed, members added a deep blue fabric “framework” adorned with gold stars. Suzanne Bryant then did the machine quilting, using a “long arm” to complete all the background quilting and finish the back of the piece.

It took Lesa Scott 11 hoopings to replicate the state of Indiana logo, no small challenge for a seasoned quilter.

“I had to keep going back, because you can’t lay it all out and let it do its own thing – you have to arrange everything, and it took quite a bit to get everything all lined up to where it’s supposed to be. I didn’t think I’d ever get done.”

Along the course of the project, the Piecemakers learned some interesting trivia about the history of the townships they were working on.

“I’m from Indiana but not from Huntington,” says Jean Schowe. “I’ve learned different things about the different townships. I really did learn a lot about the geography of Huntington County.”

Scott, who recently moved to Roanoke from Huntington, says the history of Jackson Township was far more colorful than she knew.

“They had Irish dancing girls, they had cockfights, and they had a distillery,” she says. “And Indians. Kilsoquah is buried there.”

When they finally finished the quilt, the piece had transformed into not just a recording of history, but a true work of art.

“We were surprised by how good it looked when it came together, because everybody did their own thing at their own house,” says Jan Ballard. “It looked beautiful together.”

The women felt even more proud of their accomplishment, when their bicentennial quilt fetched an insurance appraisal at $1,600 – a nice surprise and a compliment to the quality of their handiwork. Scribner recently took it to an official appraiser at a quilt show in Marion.

“She said it was well-constructed and well-quilted,” Scribner says. “She based it on what it would take to replicate it exactly as it is, should it be a loss. So all these different fabrics and emblems were brought in from different places, so someone would have to go dig all those up and put it back together.”

The quilt can be seen inside the entrance of the Huntington branch of the Huntington City-Township Public Library, but will also be on display at the upcoming Pioneer Festival on Sept. 23 and 24, and also during the bicentennial torch ceremonies held Sept. 30, at Hier’s Park. The Indiana Room has expressed an interest in giving the quilt an exhibit. However, the club desires to share it with others. They want to exhibit it at other locations, allowing people to get an up-close view of Huntington County’s history, interpreted with fabric and thread and the work of 32 hands.

“We want it to go on loan, and on display, like a traveling quilt in the county,” Scribner adds.