Betty Bray remembers dabbling in quilting throughout her life. But it was a Friendship Quilt she created in 1970 that piqued her interest in a craft foreign to her at that time, even though she excelled as a seamstress.
“This was when I really got interested in quilting,” says the 85-year-old Independence resident, who will be in the limelight as the featured quilter at the Calico-Cut-Ups annual show on Feb. 14 and 15. Show hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days.
Though interested in quilting at the time, Betty wasn’t hooked yet. She didn’t become addicted until some five or six years later.
Sitting in the living room of her Glendale Gardens home with Mary Ellen Bloomquist, a former featured quilter and longtime friend, Betty recalls it was the Centennial Quilt – with all the eagles on it – that hooked her.
“I embroidered the quilt and quilted it,” she says proudly, then adds: “And that kind of got me started.”
Betty was now like most of the quilters she knew, including her mother and grandmother, from whom she learned her sewing skills as a child growing up in Fort Smith, Ark., her home for nearly 25 years.
Says Betty: “After you get started, you just don’t want to quit. You are addicted ... and it drives you to want to quilt more than do anything else.”
Betty’s quilt display at the free, nonjuried quilt show at The Salvation Army Community Center, 14700 E. Truman Road, Independence, includes one of her favorites – “Butterflies in Motion.”
This brightly colored appliqué features 12 large blocks, with four different colored butterflies in each block. Her favorite creation – an appliquéd pansy quilt she made for her daughter-in-law – won’t be on display. It is now in Florida.
Some 50 members of the quilting club will participate in the show featuring demonstrations, numerous vendors, a scissors/knife sharpener, food concessions, an opportunity basket and an opportunity quilt. Tickets are $1 each or six for $5.
This year’s “starry” opportunity quilt is a replica of the one Mary Ellen Bloomquist made and displayed at last year’s show.
Her king-size creation was such a hit with club members that they decided to make one just like it for this year’s show. It would be their opportunity quilt.
However, there was a big snag. Not a single pattern could be found to purchase in the United States. Finally, after an extensive search, the sought-after pattern was purchased in England.
Proceeds from the show go not only to The Salvation Army, but also to purchase material and supplies to make miniquilts for Hope House, The Salvation Army and “wherever a need may be.” Last year, the Calico Cut-Ups donated more than 100 labor-of-love quilts to charity.
Is Betty pleased about being the 2014 featured quilter? You bet she is. But she’s also excited and honored about the accolades bestowed upon her.
“I think the ladies in our group are very talented in what they do, so to be chosen, I think, is an honor,” she says, noting she would like all show visitors to realize that quilting is something most people could find pleasure in if they enjoy artistic and creative things.
A club member for eight years, Betty says, “Quilting is a passion with me, and I would hope we could get some younger people interested in keeping the craft going.”
Quilting isn’t Betty’s only passion. She’s been passionate about golf since she began playing it 60 years ago. And, if not for health reasons, she would be on the links today playing with her 90-year-old husband, Bill Bray. She made her last putt three years ago.
Now that Betty has retired from golfing, she has more time to quilt. In the summer, it’s in her sunroom. In the winter, she hibernates in her sewing room in the basement. There she quilts “three or four hours or more” at a time while listening to TV or the radio.
When it comes to fabric, Betty is somewhat of an expert. She worked 25 years in three area fabric stores before retiring from Hancock Fabrics on Noland Road at age 60. She also worked at King’s on Noland Road and Clark’s at the now-defunct Blue Ridge Mall.
“I made a lot of model garments for these fabric stores until the unions made me quit,” she quips, noting she sewed all her clothes until it became cheaper to buy them.
Betty says she’s shaky, at times, making it “very tedious” to handle little pieces of fabric.
Is she ready to put down her needle and thread? Not yet.
“I will continue to quilt until I can’t. ... I am a fighter,” she says, noting she’s also is a perfectionist. “I do a lot of ripping out ... but some people won’t do that.”
For more information about the show or the Calico Cut-Ups, call Clara Diaz, 682-1140, or Rosemary Garten, 796-6705. The quilters meet from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, 603 N. Jennings Road.
Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.