Metro-East Living

Look, but don’t touch the hundreds of quilts on display this weekend

Local woman on what it means to be a "modern quilter"

Sarah Brandt talks about what it means to be a modern quilter. Brandt is a member of the Hearts 'n' Hands Quilt Guild based in O'Fallon, Illinois.
Up Next
Sarah Brandt talks about what it means to be a modern quilter. Brandt is a member of the Hearts 'n' Hands Quilt Guild based in O'Fallon, Illinois.

The blocks, borders and bindings that make up the 250 pieces of art at the Quilts from the Heart show this weekend will be as varied and the women and men who made them.

Some reflect the loose, artsy attitude of their makers like Sarah Brandt, 46, of Marissa, and Heidi Shelton, 49, of Troy. Others show the methodical nature of their makers like Carole Piontkowsky, 58, of Belleville.

All the quilts are made by the 170-some members of the Hearts ‘n’ Hands Quilt Guild, based in O’Fallon, and will be on display Saturday and Sunday at Whiteside Middle School in Belleville.

“Our hope is to educate and stir up passion in anyone who has ever thought they would want to quilt,” Carole said of the show, which the guild hosts every other year.

“Some think of it as an old-fashioned ‘throw a blanket together’ (hobby), but there is hundreds of thousands of dollars in this,” she said.

Fabric for just the top of a twin-sized bed quilt is about $250, and the stitching that brings the three layers — the decorative top, batting and bottom fabric — together can cost a penny an inch, Heidi said.

060117DH colorful material
Quilting material organized by color in Sarah Brandt’s workshop. Derik Holtmann

Quilts that are intricate, or made by someone who has won awards from the American Quilters Society, can cost much more to purchase. The Log Cabin quilt that Carole and Heidi made to give to the Koerner House, a historic home in Belleville undergoing renovation, is valued by an independent appraiser at $6,500.

“It went from something of necessity to it’s own art form,” Heidi said, explaining that while a quilt’s main function had been warmth, quilters now practice the craft out of love.

“It’s a solitary endeavor that people can enjoy together,” Sarah said from her home near Marissa. “There is that warmth for making a quilt (that) I think carries over into socially.”

This year’s show features an “Under the Sea” challenge, an idea Carole and Heidi took from seeing challenges from other quilt shows. Forty-one of the guild’s quilters made the 75 blocks.

It’s a solitary endeavor that people can enjoy together. There is that warmth for making a quilt (that) I think carries over into socially.

Sarah Brandt

“It was 24 hours, hand-stitching this together,” Heidi said of her work after all the blocks were turned in.

It’s a long piece that will likely trail onto the ground from the stands that will hold up all the quilts. Carole and Heidi provided the background colors of blues and tans and size parameters, along with the theme “Under the Sea” to their fellow quilters. What they got back was everything from simple piecing to elaborate appliques with embroidery and embellishments.

They plan to enter “Under the Sea” in quilting competitions, which limited the piece to no more than 60 inches wide. It can be any length.

There’s a lot of room for individuality in quilting. Carole has a Christmas quilt that features a reindeer in a large green panel. Heidi says she has “the same” panel, except in red, and the finished quilt “looks totally different.”

The quilting guild “is quite the melting pot,” Sarah said.

While Carole tends to follow patterns, showing her individuality in her fabrics and stitching, Sarah looks at those patterns and finds a way to twist them. That’s part of what is becoming known as the modern style.

060117DH diggin
Derik Holtmann

For instance, Dresden Plate quilts feature pieces cut almost into necktie shapes and pieced in a plate pattern. Those plate blocks tend to be the same size and placed in a grid, but Sarah made a quilt with a huge offset plate and several smaller ones. She called it “Diggin’ Dresden Plates” and offered it as an incentive to her daughter’s volleyball team.

Carole calls herself a traditional quilter, whom Heidi calls “precise, and I’m more ‘whip it together’” Heidi said with a laugh.

All three women started quilting in the early 1990s, with Carole learning from a woman who hand-stitched everything. After about three years of careful handwork, Carole went to a guild meeting and saw machines at work.

“Wow, you can use a machine?” she laughed. “I never went back.”

About the show

  • No touching: If you want to see the back of a quilt, ask one of the women wearing white gloves to turn it over.
  • When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
  • Where: Whiteside Middle School, 111 Warrior Way, Belleville
  • Admission: $5

Expect to see

  • Presentations of “Quilts of Valor” to war veterans at noon Saturday and Sunday
  • Antique quilts will be in a separate room, displayed on a bed with a volunteer turning them
  • What to buy: Offerings from the Scrappy Boutique include finished bed quilts and quilt crafts, as well as tops, blocks, fabric. Sales from the donated items will benefit the Hearts ‘n’ Hands Quilt Guild
  • Participate: Visitors on Saturday are encouraged to vote on the People’s Choice Awards. On Sunday, winning quilts will show the ribbons.
  • More details: