Bicentennial Quilt Finds Permanent Home Inside Plymouth Museum

By Jane Ernsberger
Times-Junction News Editor

A quilt to commemorate the Bicentennial of the State of Ohio in 2003 has found a permanent home. The quilt, featuring a square representing each of the 88 counties will hang in the Plymouth Area Historical Museum.

Edith Dyke, who is a member of the Cellar Sewers, said the idea for such a quilt started in 1998 with a committee. The events of Sept. 11, 2001, she noted, changed everything. There was no longer any money for the quilt, which did not sit well.

"We cannot let this go by without making a quilt," Dyke said.

A quilter was found in each county who would do a square representing that area. Dyke said the Cellar Sewers did the blocks for counties where a quilter was not available.

The end result is a snapshot of the Buckeye State and the many people and events which have made it the Great State of Ohio. Intermixed are seals and signs of this state.

"As people were sending in their blocks, they were also sending in little stories with them," Dyke noted. "I learned a lot. I learned that Geauga is the Indian word for raccoon."

A longtime quilter, Dyke said the effects of quilting on the American culture have been long ranging. She recalled the time of immigrants from Europe who also brought their bedding since there were no mills in America. The bedding started to wear out, and with no mills, the immigrants needed to do something for the bedding.

"They took parts of their clothing to patch their bedding," she noted. "Then they started to patch in patterns."

Quilted material was also found by Marco Polo in the Orient, Dyke pointed out. Knights wore a quilted material under the suits of armor. Women would quilt their petticoats and use quilts to stay warm in winter.

"They were making quilts out of all sorts of patterns," she added. "They are still being done. It is a tradition they do not want to give up."

There are a number of types of quilted squares, according to Dyke. The crazy quilt is rarely actually quilted. It was popular over a century ago, and many pieces still exist.

Designs are also historical, according to Dyke. "We owe most of our strip piecing technique to the Seminole Indians.

"In 1847, the sewing machine was invented," she pointed out. "You could now make quilts with a machine."

In the pioneer days, Dyke said people would get together to quilt. "It is the only art form made for socialization," she noted.

"Girls at 16 had to have their quilt ready for their marriage," she said. "The women would get together and quilt for the young girl's dowry."

Originally, material was quilted to hold the batting in place. Dyke noted over time, it would shift inside the piece. Due to developments in quality, batting today holds it shape.

Quilting has evolved to include the patchwork and appliqued quilts. "People make such elaborate quilts they just astound me."

There is also a large group of quilters who will submit their work for judging. Dyke, who is also a judge, said there are 108 areas where judges will look at a quilt. The work submitted shows hours of work and dedication to quilting. The biggest flaw is the binding.

"It's a really tough competition," she pointed out. "Why enter a quilt show? It's to get that critique."

The county fairs in Ohio still continue to hold quilting judging. There was a time, Dyke said, when there would be a prize for the quilt that used the most pieces.

Just like fashion, she noted, there are fads in quilting. "There was a time when everybody had to make grandmother's star garden," Dyke pointed out. "It's back. There was a time when everyone had to make the double wedding ring.

Appliqueing, she noted, is the layering of fabric on top of another layer. This technique is widely used. Quilts can also be embroidered.

In the 1920's, bobbin embroidery was popular. Dyke said newspapers were printing quilting patters daily. These, she noted, became something people started collecting.

The invention of the long-arm quilting machine has made it easier, Dyke said, for many quilters. Some are now computerized.

"There are so many improvements being made," she added. "A number of years ago, 83 million Americans were involved in quilting. I know it's grown from that. Quilting has affected so much of the American public, I don't see it going away any soon."

Quilting has gained worldwide appeal. Dyke said it has become a multi-billion dollar business.

Young people, she added, have also gotten involved. It now adds a new generation to the art form.

Women are not the only ones who quilt. Dyke said men are getting more and more involved in quilting.

Quilters, Dyke said, are very service minded. "We like to make quilts for charity. We also make quilts for soldiers. Some of our most rewarding work to to give quilts to wounded soldiers through the Ohio Quilts for Soldiers Project.

"It's a wonderful world to be in," Dyke noted. "You have to find your passion. I'm so lucky I found mine so early. I do other things, but quilting is the best."

A group of quilters meet on the last Monday of each month at the Plymouth Area Historical Museum. Everyone is invited.

Once the quilt was made for the Bicentennial, it has traveled all over the state. Dyke said it has been on display in many government buildings in Columbus, but they did not want the permanent display.

"I wanted this hung permanently so people could look at it," she explained of its permanent home in Plymouth. "It should be where people can see it. The quilt was looking for a home. It's got one."

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