Quilts at the 2015 KY State Fair Celebrate Life, Love & National Championships

The KY Heritage Quilt Society Award Winner by Anne Marie Miro.

The Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society Award Winner by Anne Marie Miro.

The traditional craft of quilting has steadily been on the rise in popularity for decades now, and some of the best and most unique examples of yesterday’s styles mixed with today’s contemporary designs can be found in the Textiles Exhibit at the 2015 Kentucky State Fair.

Put simply a quilt is composed of a top, a back, with bedding in between, and is accented with decorative stitching. That is where the specifics end and a world of infinite choices begins.

From design and materials, to colors and themes – the options are endless. Walking through the recently hung quilts in the East Hall one can see births celebrated, remembrances to loved ones departed, national championships won, seasons and holidays commemorated, even race horse American Pharoah was honored for his Kentucky Derby victory and subsequent winning of the Triple Crown.

“We are quilt addicts over here, and we don’t want a cure,” said Susan Hoferkamp, superintendent of the Textiles Exhibit.

To the left is the winner of Best in Show by Gwen Receveur. To the right is the top machine embroidered entry by Glynnis Ballou.

To the left is the Best in Show winner from Gwen Receveur. To the right is the top machine embroidered entry by Glynnis Ballou.

With more than 400 quilts entered in 50-plus categories, much in life is being celebrated at this year’s exhibit – too much for any one judge to administer.

“The Kentucky State Fair is different from any other competition either of us have judged, including other state fairs, due to the size of the competition,” said Linda Luggen, one of the quilting judges.

“We have a system when there are this many quilts to judge – we split the overall number up between the two of us,” said Edie Dyke, the other judge who traveled from Toledo, Ohio to participate this year.

First the various award categories are set, then winners are chosen in each category.

Judges Linda Luggen, to the left, and Edie Dyke.

Judges Linda Luggen, to the left, and Edie Dyke.

The judges convene with the winning entries, then move through an elimination process until overall winners are selected and “Best in Show” is awarded.

Both judges emphasized that every entry is important and a priority is placed on personally offering direct feedback to the artists, to let them know how a decision was reached so they can work on improving their craft, and to specifically offer praise and encouragement to each quilter.

While a premium is placed on feedback, moving through all these entries requires a speedy eye, deft at noticing minuscule details, and the ability to convey their critique concisely for volunteers to notate on each quilters’ entry forms.

That takes experience, as a quilter personally and as a judge. Both Luggen and Dyke are certified to evaluate quilting competitions through the National Quilting Association. Earning that responsibility is a three to five year process.

The first thing to look for is the overall design impact of the quilt. That is a great opportunity for the judges to give initial positive feedback to the quilter. Other aspects given consideration include the piecing together of different materials to make the designs, appliqué, and edge-finishing.

"Mammy Brown's Civil War Quilt," from Barbra Gray Rolph.

“Mammy Brown’s Civil War Quilt,” from Barbra Gray Rolph.

One interesting entry this year was “Mammy Brown’s Civil War Quilt,” which came from Barbra Gray Rolph. Her great, great grandmother, Alvina R. Jupin Brown, aka “Mammy” Brown, started this quilt during the Civil War.

It was passed down through two successive generations before Ms. Rolph completed it. What originated as a purely utilitarian product has now won top honors in the “Generations” category, and is hanging aloft with the “Best in Show” winner at the Kentucky State Fair.

Textile’s Superintendent Susan Hoferkamp looked admiringly upon several story quilts that told specific tales from the lives’ of those that crafted each and said, “Quilting is just a record of a person’s life.”

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