Some of my favorite summer days of childhood were spent at my grandparents’ farm, romping around outside in the sunshine, watching the corn grow taller than me and, sometimes, squeezing past Grandma’s quilting hoop that seemed to fill her entire living room.
When she was in the “quilting mood,” Grandma would spend hours on end with needle and thread in hand, stitching pretty designs into fabric stretched across that hoop. It was amazing to watch.
Better yet was the chance
to enjoy her final product: A quilt covered in pink tulips, sunbonnet-wearing girls or a “double-wedding ring” pattern. Even now, the feeling of a quilt under my hands sends me right back to about age 10. There’s nothing like it.
A long time ago, Grandma stopped quilting or doing any other kind of sewing and crocheting. She told me her hands couldn’t do the work anymore as she gifted me her sewing machine and supplies.
That sewing machine sat idle in my house for probably 10 years, until I found new inspiration last year: an air-conditioned building on a scorching-hot day at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. My mom, sister, soon-to-be brother-in-law and I needed somewhere to get out of the heat, so we wandered inside the building where the fair’s textile entries were on display. Quilts!
After peering into the glass cases at all of that blue-ribbon handiwork, we happened to find a few seats to rest in — just as two quilt store owners took the stage. They raved about how modern quilting techniques and supplies make the craft so much easier to learn than when our grandmas started.
That’s when I jokingly said, “Geez, maybe I should make something for the fair sometime.”
Eventually, my laughter and jokes morphed into a real goal. I mean, why not enter something in the fair? People of all ages, with all types of stuff, end up in the running for blue ribbons at the fair. Why shouldn’t I give it a shot, too?
Well, my very supportive mother didn’t forget that. She rooted me on as I broke out Grandma’s old sewing machine and got help learning how to quilt over the winter. Mom even brought over her packed-away sewing machine and made her first quilting project, too.
She lit up with pride when I gave 92-year-old Grandma my first three quilting projects, all made on her old sewing machine. One even included scraps from Grandma’s fabric stash.
So, it made sense when warm weather hit that Mom was the one who reminded me the Rock Island County Fair is coming up soon (July 20-25) in East Moline. She said I should follow through on my dream. So I am. One of my quilted table runners is going to the fair!
More importantly, though, an heirloom quilt that Grandma worked on when she was a much younger woman is going to the fair, too.
It was easy to enter. I just went to the fair’s website and found a list of contest categories and the entry deadline: July 5. Then I printed out the entry form and sent it in. Signing up was as easy as that!
So, what do you have around the house that you could enter in the fair? Maybe you don’t sew, knit, crochet or cross-stitch. That’s OK. There are plenty of other categories at the fair into which your hobbies or talents might fit.
Do you make Christmas ornaments, tree skirts or stockings? What about pot holders or tissue box covers? The fair even has categories for best decorated wreath, hair barrette and gift-wrapped box. Then there’s the culinary division, the livestock and — yikes — too many other categories to even mention here.
Over the past two years, the fair has experienced a decrease in people entering items for judging, but Suzanne Hoke, assistant secretary/treasurer of the fair board and a member of the executive board, said she has already noticed a lot more interest in this year’s fair.
“We have all ages,” she said. “Everybody’s welcome.”
That includes grandmas. I hope to give mine a chance to see her quilts on display at a county fair for the first time.
Will we see you there?