Herald JournalHerald Journal, June 28, 2004

Winsted quilter keeps art of her homemade craft alive

By Heidi Stutelberg

The dying art of hand stitching quilts is alive and well in the home of Imelda Marshall of Winsted.

Her intricate stitches transform pieces of fabric into a treasure that can be passed down from generation to generation.

Whether she embellishes her quilts with embroidery, cross-stitching or ladies' handkerchiefs, Marshall’s quilts are extraordinary examples of hand stitched quilts.

Sixty-five years ago, Marshall first learned how to stitch quilts from her aunt.

Back then, women used flour and feed sacks for quilting, flannel for batting, and the quilts were backed with pillow tubing.

Marshall seriously took up stitching 18 years ago when she retired.

She deciding to take up quilting as a hobby. She took a few quilting classes at quilting shops and then worked with the Holy Trinity quilters for 10 years.

Her oldest quilt is 45 years old with the wedding band design.

It lasted through two children and has held together really well, needing only the binding replaced, which is the outside trim of the quilt, Marshall said.

Currently, Marshall is working on her fourth quilt for the year.

Sometimes, it may take a year to complete a quilt, though she often is working on more than one quilt at the same time.

She enjoys making heirloom quilts for her grandchildren.

They each receive one when they graduate from high school and when they get married.

She also custom designs quilts for clients.

Last year, Marshall finished a quilt for a client that was started 20 years ago.

She started embroidering 12 squares of baskets of flowers for a quilt, and has completed nine so far.

Marshall shared a few tips for the novice quilter using the stitching technique.

She recommended starting out small and purchasing less expensive fabrics at department stores.

When stitching, it’s also important to “rock the stitches,” using a rocking motion for even spacing between stitches and getting as many stitches as one can on the needle.

Marshall prefers fabrics with a polyester blend and uses polyester fill, for a fluffier look, which will bring out the quilt’s design.

Some quilters do use cotton fill, which results in a flatter appearance.

Quilters also need quilting frames, which can be bought for around $500 or they can be hand-made, as her late husband Donald, of 56 years, did for her, Marshall said.

Quilting can be a hobby for both husband and wife. Donald’s job was to cut and piece together the fabric. Marshall didn’t care to do the piecing and felt her husband, as well as other men, was more accurate in the cutting, as he used the ruler and fabric cutter.

She has recently taught her two daughters stitching and they have found it to be quite relaxing after a stressful day at work.

Marshall stated, “Generations aren’t passing it [stitching] down like they used to. Kids can learn from a kit. Children can start embroidering as young as 10 years old. Later on in life, they can say, ‘Look what I did when I was a child.’”

The craft of hand stitching quilts and other sewing activities can be quite fun and rewarding.

Hobbies like these are great stress reducers, can be shared with family members, and best of all, the finished project can make a wonderful treasure for a loved one, Marshall said.

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