Posted on 28 November 2014.
Priscilla Moreland’s prize-winning quilt hung in her living room last week, the golden threads shimmering under the lights as she lovingly recalled the work that went into it.
PRESERVING THE ART OF HAND QUILTING – Priscilla Moreland (above) smiles broadly while working with the Crazy Quilters on a recent Wednesday. She received an Award of Merit for her work from the National Quilting Association at a Colorado quilt show in September. (left) The Crazy Quilters work steadily on “Hunter’s Star,” Moreland’s latest project, which is a gift for her grandson. Messenger photo by Joe Duty
She gently traced the pattern with her fingertip, and her eyes sparkled when the conversation shifted to the history of hand quilting and the significance of the art form.
The metallic-colored threads, glittering behind her, seemed to reflect her passion for quilting. That same sparkle apparently shined at a Colorado quilt show in September, leading to a national award.
At the Silver Threads Quilt Guild Show Sept. 19-21 in Creede, Colo., Moreland, of Chico, received an Award of Merit from the National Quilting Association (NQA).
These awards can only be given by NQA-certified judges, and they are awarded to quilts that achieve recognized standards of quiltmaking excellence.
Moreland’s quilt, called “Friends – Some are Silver, Others Gold” was among 150 entries in the show. Her husband, Harold, was quick to point out that his wife’s Award of Merit was the first for the Silver Threads Guild.
COLOR CONTEMPLATION – A member of the Crazy Quilters chooses from a wide selection of thread colors. The group of women, who work to preserve the art of hand quilting, meet weekly at the First Presbyterian Church in Bridgeport. Messenger photo by Joe Duty
NQA judges give these awards at their discretion, and although they are allowed to recognize one quilt at every show with this honor, it’s not a requirement. It’s an award given to only the most deserving quilts.
Moreland said it was a total shock when her name was read. She had won no other awards at the show, and she presumed the Award of Merit would be given to one of those who had placed.
“I could not believe that my name was read, that this was given to me,” she said. “I was humbled and honored … and I cried. My intention in making this quilt top was for a dear friend of mine; my intention was not to win an award.”
Moreland estimates she’s made between 60 and 70 quilts since she took up the craft 25 years ago, but “Friends” is one of her favorites and perhaps, her most complicated.
The entire thing was quilted with holographic thread, which because it’s made of mylar, is difficult to work with. It breaks and ravels easily, and Moreland said it can’t be pulled like cotton thread.
“This was the first quilt that I quilted all of it with this holographic thread … and I will probably never do that again,” she said with a broad smile. “I followed the pattern that was on the material and outlined everything. It took three years to complete.”
Despite the tedious work, Moreland emphasized that each stitch was made with love. The quilt is a gift for a friend in Colorado who was recently widowed.
“Her husband passed away three years ago, and I had quilt tops there at [our Colorado] cabin and I told her to come over and pick one,” she said.
This particular design, created by Terry Atkinson, was originally called “Fire Escape.” Moreland changed the name to represent the sentiment she wanted to share with her friend.
“I renamed it to ‘Friends – Some are Silver, Others Gold,'” she said. “When we grew up, there was a song we would sing, ‘make new friends, keep the old …,’ and that was the theme of this. When her husband passed away, there were so many changes that happened because she was single and had to make friends in a single world, but don’t forget the dear friends.”
It will be several months before the quilt reaches its final destination in Colorado, though. The national award automatically qualifies it to be shown at the NQA quilt show this summer in Little Rock, Ark.
“I called her when I received the award, and she was especially proud,” Moreland said. “She said, ‘I know that’s my quilt, but you’re welcome to have it as long as you need it.’
NATIONAL AWARD WINNER – Priscilla Moreland’s quilt, “Friends – Some Are Silver, Others Gold,” won an Award of Merit from the National Quilting Association. Messenger photo by Joe Duty
ART OF QUILTING
For Moreland, quilting is therapeutic.
“We drink coffee in the morning, and I quilt every morning,” she said. “I try to quilt three to four hours every day.”
She was taught by her mother, Irma Shannon who lived in Runaway Bay, and all of her work is done by hand, which makes it an even greater treasure and is also a big reason she received the Award of Merit.
“The reason I received this honor is because of the quilting itself,” she said. “This usually would have been quilted every inch, but this is heavily quilted … and there aren’t many hand-quilters.”
Moreland said at the Colorado show, hers was one of only two hand-quilted pieces, and the other one was only partially done by hand.
It’s a philosophical difference, she said. Some quilters simply piece the top together and then give it to someone else to quilt with a machine, some of which are even computerized.
Moreland works to keep the art of hand-quilting alive by teaching classes, and through her membership in the Crazy Quilters and the Wise County Quilt Guild.
The Crazy Quilters is a hand-quilting club that meets weekly at the First Presbyterian Church in Bridgeport.
“We solve all the problems,” Moreland said with a laugh. “It’s almost like a substitute family.”
She said the quilters range in age from 50 to 92. About 12 to 15 women regularly attend.
“It’s very similar to the quilting bees of the ’40s,” she said. “It’s a women’s discussion group.” While quilting, Moreland said they often discuss issues facing women today, or current events.
“Because of the different ages, we have different points of view,” she said. “We also talk about design; we talk about fabrics.”
And they instruct those less experienced. She said this group was instrumental in her learning when she first started quilting.
It takes the group about a month-and-a-half to finish a quilt, and they rotate between members. Currently, the group is working on one of Moreland’s quilts. The design is called “Hunter’s Star,” and Moreland plans to give it to her grandson as a high school graduation present.
“When it’s my turn, they know there will be a lot of quilting on it, so it will take longer,” she said. “But it’s easy quilting, and that’s what we’re there for … to quilt.”
While the Crazy Quilters put their skills to use, the purpose of the Wise County Quilt Guild is to instruct, according to Moreland. They meet once a month for a business meeting and program.
For the last eight years, Moreland has also been a member of the Silver Threads Guild in Colorado. She and Harold split their time between Texas and Colorado, so May through September, she attends quilting activities in Colorado and October through April she attends groups here.
She said the Colorado guild offers numerous programs and workshops to accommodate all the tourists.
“So you’re learning a lot of different methods,” she said. “Some of them pertain to quilting and some are craft-related but still with fabrics. Both the guilds have a show every year.”
Unfortunately, Moreland is usually not here for the Wise County show, but she regularly participates in the Silver Thread show, which is where she won in September.
Quilting is a constant in Moreland’s life. She moves from one quilt to the next and said completing one still leaves her feeling elated after all these years.
“It’s like giving birth,” she said. “But even after you finish the quilting, you still have to square it up, bind it. You have to do a lot to it.
“Usually by the time I’m almost finished with it, I’m already thinking about the next one.”
Moreland said her quilts are meant to be used. She makes them queen size and uses special batting for warmth, so people can use them on their beds.
“My quilts are made for a purpose,” she said. “A lot of them … you make a quilt with a specific objective in mind, like for an unborn baby or a wedding.”
After completing an intense piece like “Friends,” she often chooses a simple design for the next quilt, but she’s always contemplating patterns and color combinations and striving to try new things.
Last week she took a few moments to reflect on past works and ponder future projects, but as her eyes came to rest on the quilt in her living room she said it will always be one of her favorites.
“It was made for another person, and it was made with my friend in mind,” she said. “Every stitch was with love to her.”