Culture: Art, Books & Music

Ocracoke quilters create a block party in fabric

Ocracoke quilters

Members of the Ocracoke Needle and Thread Club celebrate their 40th anniversary this year. From left are Brenda Kremser, Mary Vankevich, Ann Borland, Nancy Carlson, Cindy Hichens and Amy Howard.

By Connie Leinbach

The Ocracoke quilters had a block party this year to commemorate their 40th anniversary.

That party was embodied in the new quilt design–“block party”–raffled at the recent Ocrafolk Festival.

“And the festival is quite a block party,” said Cindy Hichens, a part-time island resident and one of the members.

Each year, the festival raffles off one of the three quilts made by this group, and Elizabeth Smith of Greenville won the quilt. Raffle proceeds benefit the Ocracoke Preservation Society museum.

“This one is very Ocracoke-y,” said Mary Vankevich, one of the dozen or so members, during one of the group’s meetings prior to the festival.

The colorful fabric designs sported shells, flip flops, ducks, fish and other beach themes.

“This is not meant to match,” Hichens added.

Each club member works on her block independently in a format called “lap quilting,” introduced to the group in 1978 by former member Butsie Brown.

The members bring their work to the Sunday afternoon progress meetings in the Deepwater Theater.

“Doing the quilt in sections makes the quilting easier because we are working with smaller pieces,” Hichens explained. “It also allows three people to work on a quilt simultaneously.”

Some members prefer certain tasks over others.

Detail of the quilt to be raffled at Ocracoke Preservation Society.

Detail of the quilt to be raffled at Ocracoke Preservation Society.

Ann Borland likes to applique, in which design pieces are sewn on top of background fabric. Nancy Carlson likes to embroider and also is a whiz at machine-sewing the blocks, Hichens said.

When the blocks are finished, they are then assembled onto the backing.

After hand-quilting is completed, the three sections must be joined into one queen-sized quilt.

Howard said the group selects traditional patterns that lend themselves to independent work, such as “log cabin,” or the “Ocracoke cracker,” which is an original Ocracoke pattern.

Hichens began learning the art of quilting in 2009.  She is the group’s go-to person when Jane Griffin, the master quilter, is not on the island. 

“I learned a lot from Eleanor Garrish,” Hichens said about her new avocation.  Garrish, 100, who joined the group in 1977, no longer quilts.

Begun in 1976, the group’s official name is the Ocracoke Needle and Thread Club.  Amy Howard, director of the OPS, is the chairperson.

They also go by “the Ladies Who Lunch” since they can be seen every Saturday at noon in some island restaurant along with a few non-quilters.

The group’s 40th anniversary quilt is on view on the bed in the OPS museum.  It honors the current and original members of the group by incorporating their initials in the design.

This quilt by the Ocracoke Needle and Thread Club will be raffled Dec. 6. Tickets are on sale at the OPS museum.

This quilt by the Ocracoke Needle and Thread Club will be raffled Dec. 6. Tickets are on sale at the OPS museum.

Tickets are being sold now at the museum until it is raffled Dec. 6.

In addition to the above-mentioned members, the quilters include Arleen Burley, Debbie Leonard, Brenda Kremser, Frances Miller and Elizabeth Dyer.

The group invites anyone with an interest in quilting is welcome to join the group.