Quilters Cozy Up To Rosemont


Journal & Topics Reporter

Quilting is not what it used to be as evidenced by the recent annual International Quilt Festival in Rosemont drawing close to 8,000 people.

Many attendees told one visitor that quilting isn’t just sitting in a cozy chair, sewing together reams of pieces of material, stuffing filling inside the quilt and closing the edges. That still exists, but more and more quilters including many from the Northwest suburbs are utilizing technology driven, state-of-the-art "longarm" machines to help design and produce their quilts.

Throughout the convention, held Mar. 26-28, one could see up close intertwined threads of art and commerce. The Donald E. Stephens exhibit halls featured more than 700 quilts and more than 20 sewing machine companies displaying their new technological advances.

The quilts on display were bursted with color, but now designs are more intricate allowing for additional embroidery and special stitching.

One product called the Automated Quilter, produced by a Lake Forest company, has its own app and YouTube feature. Most quilting machines have LCD screens.

As for the many exhibits, local quilters Frieda Anderson, Jo Mortland, Jean Sredl, Judy Zoelzer Levine, Linda Fern Anderson and Iva Freeman were among Midwest artists to have their quilts featured in a new "Art Quilts of the Midwest" exhibit at the convention. The quilts showed illustrations of cardinals, trees, shorelinse and the four seasons.

To celebrate the event’s 40th anniversary, a series of bold, bright, red and white quilt selections from the festival’s "Ruby Jubilee" were hung on and above red rugs in the entrance area greeting visitors as they stepped into the exhibit hall.

Attendees participated in several classes on such topics as portrait quilts, cartooning for quilters, photos on fabric, fabric manipulation, fabric painting, embellished fabric greeting cards and making a mixed media quilt collage.

Quilt shows are held across the U.S., but local organizers said Rosemont is one of the more successful due to its location and the large number of attendees from the area. They expect to be back next year.

As for those looking for a traditional quilt made long ago, one local exhibitor said  the place to go is the four-year-old Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts in Cedarburg, WI.

“When I moved from Illinois to Wisconsin I became involved in this project to find, organize, file and display so many beautiful quilts made decades ago by so many gifted people from Illinois, Wisconsin and other nearby states, to provide them a home and a way to exhibit them for the general public,” Ellie De Lia, former foundation chair of the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts and a Wilmette native, said. “We had so many beautiful quilts, masterpieces really, without a home. So we began fundraising. With the money we raised we bought a dairy farm and built the museum. It opened four years ago in time and under budget and it is beautiful.”

In addition to displaying quilts, the museum and its staff -- all volunteers -- have documented hundreds of quilts and their makers in a museum library and also offer classes and special programs on the 2.2-acre farm.

For instance, Chris Kirsch will appear at the museum May 2 to share her collection of vintage quilts and a bit of history about each.

As for the quilt festival in Rosemont, attendees crowded around demonstrations of those longarm machines, education programs and visited vendor booths with one attendee stating, “I really want to add more color to my home and my quilts and I have definitely found it here.”


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