The quilting culture is alive and well in Pratt and surrounding areas

Billie Blair
Pratt Tribune
A member of the Pratt Area Quilting Guild shows a patriotic-themed quilt at a recent meeting.

Quilting is more than making covers for a bed. Quilting is an opportunity for friendship-building, sharing the creative process, testing one’s skills, making family heirlooms, and enjoying the beauty created by others to name just a few of the joys of quilting in Pratt.

The quilting culture is alive and well in Pratt, Kansas, according to Martha Wade, Sue Buhler, Georgie Fowler and Glen Davis who represent a small sample of fabric artists in town. There are several quilting groups that meet regularly in the area, including the Pratt Area Quilters Guild, Apple Patch Quilters, Quilts of Valor, and Quilting for the Soul, to name a few. There are also informal groups who gather together in homes and other locations to sit and quilt together, including a group of hand quilters who meet monthly at First United Methodist Church.

Wade, who learned to quilt as a child, said she has been quilting for about eight years and is a member of the Pratt Area Quilters Guild and the Apple Patch Quilters.

"The local guild has a membership of about 40 and offers many learning opportunities," she said. "Before the pandemic, we had a variety of programs, including inviting speakers from other communities to come and teach new skills to the group, providing show and tell time where local quilters displayed and explained their completed quilts, offering quilting retreats, and working together to create baby quilts for the newborns at the hospital."

Wade said that while she was still teaching at Skyline Schools, a group of teachers started meeting together to quilt, calling themselves the Apple Patch Quilters. She now specializes in smaller quilting projects and creating quilt blocks.

“Many people grow up sewing and quilting seems to be an extension of that," she said. "I don’t make clothes. My sewing is more about the artistic and creative process.”

She said that she always enjoys seeing other people work, as well.

Buhler, also a member of the local guild, said she has been sewing all her life. Her first venture into quilt-making was in 1992 when her project was a quilt to help celebrate her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.

“The various blocks were designed to express their life together," she said. "It came back to me after their deaths.”

Buhler, who is also a member of the Apple Patch Quilters said the group challenges her to try different techniques.

"We learn a lot when quilting with others,” she said. “It’s the challenge of quilting I enjoy. It challenges the brain to create something new and I’ve done a variety of projects. Quilting can also be done alone or with others.”

Fowler  said that she and her sister, Rosalie Rose, learned to sew as kids.

"We learned from our grandmother on her treadle sewing machine," Fowler said. "We were making doll quilts back then."

She made her first quilt in the 1980’s when her daughter Rachel was still a baby. Fowler is involved with the local guild and the Skyline group. She also quilts with the Quilting for the Soul group at First United Methodist Church on Wednesday afternoons, as well as the local Quest for Valor. This group makes quilts for local veterans who have been touched by war. 

“Right now I am working on many things. I have numerous projects going, all involve quilting. I made 600 masks for COVID, too,” she said.

Fowler said quilting is cheaper and more fun than mental therapy for stress, though, as she considered the sizeable stash of fabric most quilters have purchased, she reconsidered her statement. She said she wants people to know quilting is more pleasant than some may think.

Davis is six months into his two-year stint as president of the local guild. He owns a computerized long-arm quilting machine that can quilt a king-size quilt.

“I prefer making full size bed quilts over wall hanging and smaller projects,” he said.

Davis started quilting when he took a class at Pawnee High School in Burdett, Kansas about 25 years ago. He, too, was taught to sew as a child by his grandmother, using a treadle machine.

“Both my wife, Joy, and I piece quilts and she’s the better quilter. She began quilting as a child," he said.

Before retirement, Davis was the superintendent of schools in Pratt. Before that he was the superintendent in Cunningham, Haviland, and Greensburg.

“QuIlting is a great hobby," Davis said. "It is my art form of choice. It’s enjoyable, gives me a creative outlet, and the things created are functional.”

For years, quilters have been offered the opportunity to make a quilt block to enter at the Pratt County Fair. The blocks are usually based on the fair’s theme each year. After the blocks are judged, Buhler lays them out and pieces them together. Others do the actual long-arm machine quilting. The finished quilt is then auctioned off the following year at the County Fair. Because of the pandemic, no quilt blocks were made for the fair in 2020, so the quilt to be auctioned off this year is made from the quilt blocks of 2019. The theme was based on Mary Poppins and the quilt is named “Practically Perfect.” Each block had to have something imperfect in it.

This year the theme of the county fair is “Team 4-H,” based on the Olympic Games to be held in 2021.

“The quilt blocks this year will be red, white, and blue and have some kind of movement or motion in them. This might be circles, curves, or a pinwheel, not straight lines. The quilt will be named after it’s finished,” said Jodi Drake, Pratt County Extension Agent.

The Pratt Area Quilters Guild is open to new members. The purpose of the group is to inspire an interest in quilts, to promote and advance the art of quilt making, and to offer educational programs related to the design and technique of quilt making. They meet on the third Monday of each month, except December, at 7 P.M. at the Pratt Community Center, 619 N. Main St. There is normally a small annual fee to help cover the cost of programs offered. Because there were no programs in 2020, no dues are being collected in 2021. The guild also awards some prizes at the Pratt County Fair. Photos of many quilts created by these quilters can be found on their Facebook page.

There are other quilting groups in the area. Locations mentioned by the quilters include Medicine Lodge (Scrapbag Quilters), Turon, Isabel, Natrona, Haviland (Friendship Quilters), and the Hutchison Guild. Some members of these groups also come to Pratt to quilt.