Quilting began in ancient times, with quilted items probably being made for warmth and protection.
Examples of quilted items listed in Encyclopedia Americana include Chinese jackets, the tunics of Egyptian and Aztec warriors, and the mats and coverlets of Roman and Asian peoples. Over time, there developed elaborate designs, corded and stuffed work, as well as additional embroidery, including embroidery in gold.
For some people, like Cathy Blaukat and Nancy Timm, quilting is a way of life. Both women became quilters as the result of a friend’s suggestion. Both women joined a quilting guild and eventually became guild leaders. Blaukat heads the Deep Valley Quilters Quilt Guild in Mankato and Nancy Timm leads the Ewenique Quilters Guild in St. Peter.
Blaukat explained how she became interested in quilting. “In 1996, a friend was retiring from a job and asked if I wanted to take a community education quilt class with her,” she said. “In the first class, we learned how to use a rotary cutter—every quilter has one—to cut the squares. In the second class we learned how to sew a one-quarter seam allowance. After just two classes, I’ve been hooked ever since.”
A quilt is a covering made of three layers—backing, filler and top—sewn together with stitches. Those stitches are called quilting.Nancy Timm
Blaukat has taken several more classes but considers herself to be mostly self-taught. She said, “I kind of learn on the go. I’ve worked on projects in class, bought a quilt book, sewed on my own and honed my skills. Then I joined the Deep Valley Quilters Quilt Guild. I’m currently the president and the webmaster. I do technology for the club, such as arranging Zoom meetings during COVID-19.”
Deep Valley Quilters Guild
The nearly 100 members of the guild are looking forward to the time when they can resume meeting on the second Thursday of every month at the First Congregational Church in Mankato. Blaukat said, “We always have an agenda of business, like upcoming classes, speakers or quilt shows. Before COVID, we made and donated baby quilts to Birthright and gave quilts to veterans in nursing homes. We would get together in a small group to sew and to cut up quilt kits for members who couldn’t join us. The guild has held a quilt show every other year at the Mankato Armory, with food and other attractions. It’s just a show—no sale of quilts.” The next show is planned for April 2023.
Blaukat, who favors traditional quilt patterns, said, “I love the Civil War reproduction fabrics—little tiny prints—blues and greens. I’ve probably made 100 bed-size quilts and 200 smaller ones. I display my quilts at home on quilt ladders, putting folded quilts on rungs of the ladders. The smaller quilts and runners I hang from the mantel. I have baskets of rolled quilts. There are three quilts hanging on walls in the house that I change out seasonally—or when I feel like it.”
Blaukat’s advice for non-quilters is: “If you like to sew, quilting is a whole other creative outlet. All you need is a needle, thread, and material. I do a lot of hand quilting. Quilting can be pieced by machine, appliqued, or done by English paper piercing. Anyone who wants to meet new friends and learn about the Deep Valley Quilters Quilt Guild in Mankato can go to our Facebook page. I post everything there.”
Ewenique Quilters Guild
In St. Peter, Nancy Timm leads the Ewenique Quilters Guild, a group that has been active for a quarter century. Its first meetings were held at Mary Lue’s Woolen Mill, which led to the unique spelling of Ewenique.
Timm was a junior on the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota when she was introduced to quilting in 1990. She said, “A friend and I decided to make quilts. That was going to be our spring break activity.” Both young women began a quilting project but did not have an easy time learning to quilt. Timm later completed her quilt, but her friend did not finish hers.
Timm explained, “Quilting is all straight lines, different from constructing clothing. We were following a pattern with directions out of a book. The book didn’t teach color theory nor technique. I learned from my mistakes. The directions said to make templates, to get the appropriate pieces, but did not give information out of what to make them. I photocopied from the book, cut them out, put them on cardboard, then traced around the cardboard. I cut with scissors, so the pieces weren’t as accurate as if done with a rotary knife and acrylic ruler.”
Despite having a difficult beginning, Timm persevered, taking quilting classes in Anoka. She said, “Since then, I have made about 200 quilts—everything from a king-size bed quilt to a mug rug, which is put under a cup of hot beverage. A mug rug has multiple pieces, like a miniature quilt. It takes about three hours to make a pair.
“I do machine piecing and quilting, but that’s not to say I haven’t quilted by hand,” she said. “I have two 40-inch-square quilts pieced and sewn by machine but quilted by hand. I have quilted smaller quilts, including one couch sized. I also have hand-quilted three bed quilts—two full size and one queen. I don’t keep track of how long it takes. When I do hand quilting, I watch TV. When machine quilting, I listen to music.”
Timm said the words quilt and quilting have more than one meaning. She explained, “A quilt is a covering made of three layers—backing, filler and top—sewn together with stitches. Those stitches are called quilting. Some people would not call it a quilt if it is just tied at the corner of each quilt piece.”
Before the COVID-19 epidemic, the Ewenique Quilters Guild met at 7 p.m. on the first Monday of each month at the St. Peter Lutheran Church. Recently, they have met on Zoom. Timm said, “In the summer, we plan to repeat last summer’s activity of meeting in Gorman Park near the Community Center.
“We have about 50 members, ranging in age from 30 to 85 years,” she said. “We are doing a block-of- the-month project. Each month in our newsletter, our guild members get the instructions for a 12-inch block, using multiple pieces of material. Everyone buys her own material.”
The Ewenique Quilters Guild has donated quilts to the St. Peter Police force so that each patrol car contains a quilt that can be used to comfort a child. Before COVID, the guild donated baskets containing a doll and doll’s quilt to hospitals for child patients, as well as giving “Quilts of Valor” to veterans.
The Ewenique Quilters Guild has sponsored quilt shows to display members’ handiwork and has had annual quilt displays at the St. Peter Public Library.
Timm’s advice to potential quilters is: 1) find a local quilt guild, 2) make your purchases at your local quilt store, 3) take classes that are offered at various levels at quilt stores and through community education programs.