Quilty Encounter in Kansas

My sweet dog, Priscilla, and I took a break from Quilter's Home biz and headed east for New Year's to Wichita, Kansas, where we rang in 2011 with my family and friends. Wichita–nicknamed Doo-Dah by many residents–is my hometown, and the location of one of my favorite sculptures, The Keeper of the Plains.

This iconic 44-foot sculpture designed by Native American artist Blackbear Bosin is is even more impressive in person. But then I digress…

The Wichita holiday fun included a so-elegant luncheon where my dear friend (and foodie) Earlene Todd introduced me to one of her fellow foodies, Betty Clark. The two belong to the same gourmet club. (Now isn't that always the way….that quilters and great food go hand in hand?)

Betty's been quilting for about 20 years and knows her way around the Wichita q-scene. Some quilty Doo-Dah lore: The Prairie Quilt Guild has about 800 members, pretty evenly split between the afternoon meeting and the evening meeting. And the best shop in town is reportedly the Picket Fence Quilt Company, over on the west side.

Betty's claim to needle fame is her uber-precise hand quilting and needle-turn applique, both techniques that she teaches in local quilt-shop classes. (And she's good, people. I saw the evidence!)

Betty and her sister, Nan, had a sweet deal worked out for bjn original, their co-owned business that produced custom handmade sewn heirlooms for clients. Nan–who lived variously in Minnesota, Illinois or Texas–would create designs on her EQ, and e-mail the files to Betty so she could review them in her own EQ system. They'd consult by phone, tweaking the design until it suited. Then Nan would machine piece it and mail the top to Betty, who would work her manual magic.

The sisters also traveled widely to national quilt shows and on various personal q-quests, including one DIY mystery trip where Betty dropped hints about each destination to her sister via cleverly written daily clues.

The tandem fun stopped in 2009, when Nan died from cancer, but Betty keeps on quilting and creating, frequently making opportunity quilts for the American Cancer Society and other charities. She's branching out, learning to piece by hand and starting to create her own designs. She's even thinking about learning authentic Hawaiian appliqué. (Click here if, like Betty, you want to know more about this amazing style of quilting.)

"I cannot stop. It's an addiction," says Betty. "If I don't have anything to quilt, I'm not a pleasant person." (Says who, chica? Great
meeting you, Betty!)

–Melissa Thompson Maher

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