Rocking the Needle, Hiding the Knot and Stitching in the Ditch – An Old Fashioned Quilting Bee

On Saturday, 28 April 2018, Debbie Walker, from Deb Ann’s Fabrics, hosted an old fashioned quilting bee (thanks to a grant from the Calvin Price Foundation) from 10 am to 2 pm at the recreation building at Watoga State Park.  Participants were from all over Pocahontas County and from as far away as York, Pennsylvania.  With a fire blazing in the large stone fireplace, beautiful sunny skies outside and the smell of food warming in the kitchen, the setting for the “bee” couldn’t have been any more perfect! Two large wooden quilting frames were set up inside, with the quilts to be hand quilted stretched taut and properly sandwiched with backing fabric, batting and quilt top, ready for work to begin.  Bonnie McLaughlin, our resident expert on hand quilting, provided step by step instructions.  Instructions, by the way, which were handed down to her by her grandmother and mother. After an introduction by Bonnie on things such as choosing the right needle, using a thimble, hoops versus frames and lighting, it was time to pick a spot at the quilting frames and begin stitching in the ditch!  Bonnie continued to emphasize throughout the day, a consistent length to your stitches should be your focus.  For many participants, this was their first experience with hand quilting and quickly learned there is an art to “rocking” the needle and hiding the knot!  Feelings of nervousness and apprehension were palpable but quickly faded away as questions and conversations settled in.  It was a wonderful opportunity to experience the comradery and fellowship of people working individually but collectively towards a common goal.  It was a rare opportunity to experience some of what was a very popular experience in the 19th century.  At that time, Americans felt separated from their neighbors and communities and alienated from their work as their lives rapidly shifted from agricultural to industrial; they craved what they perceived as a simpler way of life.   There were no feelings of alienation or of separation on this day and it did give all of us a sense of a much simpler way of life!