Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail Adds New Quilts Blocks to SC’s Growing Quilt Trail

The Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail in Upstate, SC, adds more quilt blocks to South Carolina’s growing quilt trail.

#248 Granny Nell’s Hexagon Stars in Westminster, SC

Nell Barker Stone, or as most of her friends and family called her, Granny Nell, was the maker of this lively quilt whose pattern goes by many names—Hexagon Stars (Nancy Page, 1934), Texas Star (Ladies Art Company, 1922), Friendship Hexagon (Nancy Page), Dolly Madison (Kansas City Star, 1937). Granny Nell’s Hexagon Stars was most likely made sometime in the mid-20th century. However, this popular pattern appears in quilts as early as 1844 (source: Barbara Brackman, Material Culture blog spot, May 21, 2016).

Stone’s creative use of plaids and stripes in her quilt, as well as a calming turquoise and peach palette, result in a quilt that is both energetic and composed. The six-pointed star is constructed of five-sided shapes sewn to a center hexagon. There are several ways to complete this block. Granny Nell’s version of this pattern places a white hexagon between the hexagon stars. Other variations of the design use either a diamond or an elongated triangle to complete the hexagon block and connect the blocks to each other.

In 2017 after Nell Stone passed away, her daughter-in-law Dawn Stone was given this treasured quilt. Dawn said, “Granny Nell was a great influence in my life and I helped her with many quilts in the basement of her home. She would hang the old wooden quilt frame from the ceiling and often times have family and friends to help out.”

The location of this quilt block is on the Barker/Stone family farm in the Earle’s Grove community in southern Oconee County. Dawn’s family is the 4th generation to own and work the 65-acre farm originally purchased by her husband’s great-grandfather, Joshua Barker, in 1927. In the early 1900’s the farm grew cotton. At present, it is a working poultry and beef cattle farm. With good fortune, it will become a Century Farm in 2027.

#249 Resting Place in Pickens, SC

This lovely rendition of a lake and mountain landscape is based on a wall hanging designed and quilted by master quilter Gail Sexton of Sunset in Pickens County. ‘Resting Place’ faces 306 East Main Street, the office location of Dr. William W. Spearman, Optometry Specialist. It is placed on the wall of the historic Keowee Bank building erected in 1898. The bank unfortunately closed during the great depression, but the outline of the bank’s vault is still visible today. In 1929 Leon McCall purchased the building and opened a café. In 1963 Bobby Garren bought the business and opened it as Garren’s Café.

Resting Place is an excellent example of Gail Sexton’s artistic skill as both a painter and a quilter. She is a self-taught artist who began painting mostly landscapes with oils and acrylics in the early 1970’s. She made her first quilt for her daughter in 1971 but did not become a serious quilter until 1984. The transition from painting landscapes to creating them as fabric art was a natural fit for this talented artist. Resting Place is one of her favorite quilts and employs her signature techniques for constructing these smaller art pieces. Sexton begins by conceptualizing a scene in her mind. She imagines sitting on a rock, looking out on a landscape at the sky, water, and hills. After her mental vision for the piece takes shape, she transfers it into a drawing. Once she has a sketch of her concept she then begins to construct a pattern for the quilt. First she creates a paper-piecing pattern for the background, including the dominant elements of the design such as mountains and lakes or open fields. Fabric is then sewn directly onto the paper pattern to piece together the background. After removing the paper from this foundation the fun begins. She builds the composition by appliquéing a focal point such as the old tree in Resting Place onto the foundation. She continues to add elements such as trees, flowers, rocks, and birds to build the complexity and enhance the realism of the piece. Finally, the landscape is enhanced with quilting and thread painting that give it both dimension and texture.

Sexton’s quilting talents are not limited to only landscapes. She loves designing her own original patterns. Her beautiful pieced and appliquéd large quilts have won multiple awards over the years at the quilt shows of local guilds such as UpCountry Quilters Guild in Pickens and Lake and Mountain Quilters Guild of Seneca. She has received national recognition as well, having won awards in the national Hoffman Fabric Challenge three times and having a fourth quilt chosen as well for Hoffman’s traveling trunk shows.

#250 Martin’s Vitality in Pendleton, SC

Every quilt block on the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail tells a unique story. But some stories are more poignant than others. The story of Martin’s Vitality is the story of a special, dearly loved young man whose presence graced the world far too briefly. This vibrantly colored quilt block is dedicated to the memory of Martin Acevedo – The Happy Farmer – as he was called by his family. According to his Aunt Anne, “Vitality beamed from him wherever he went.” The young man was known for his contagious smile, his helpfulness, a strong work ethic, his love of family and his passion for the agricultural life. He was a friend to all people. Martin’s Vitality is the perfect name for this special addition to the UHQT.

Martin’s aunt, Carolyn Harris, was chosen as the 2018 “Quilter of the Year” by the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail. It is customary for the UHQT to paint a quilt block especially for the “Quilter of the Year,” usually based on a quilt made by the honoree. Sadly, twenty-six year old Martin died in a boating accident shortly before Carolyn was selected by the UHQT for the 2018 honor. So his aunt chose instead to have the UHQT use two treasured childhood quilts made for Martin by his mother Jane (Carolyn’s sister) as the inspiration for Martin’s Vitality. A team of Martin’s family members and friends, with the help of the UHQT paint production team, completed the block that now hangs on the barn at The Elms in Pendleton, his family’s homeplace and the farm of his great-grandfathers.

Martin’s Vitality is a nine patch variation of vibrantly colored squares made by Jane Martin Acevedo. Every color used in both the original quilts and the UHQT block are symbolic of some aspect of Martin Acevedo’s life and interests. The white center squares form a cross, representing Martin’s deep Christian faith. These white squares are also reminders of Martin’s animals – his dogs, his Holstein cows, his sheep – and his truck.

Yellow and green hold a special significance in this quilt story as well. The yellow block above the center cross signifies the morning sun and God’s mercies which are new every day. The yellow and green blocks throughout are appropriate reminders of Martin’s time spent on his John Deere and his Case tractor. Green is the color of the farms he tilled, 4-H Club and football fields, all things Martin loved.

The maroon square below the center cross symbolizes the blood of Jesus Christ, shed for us all and Martin’s deep faith. It also reminds his family of his affection for a certain red Farmall tractor.

Blue is the color of a country sky and the bright blue jackets worn by the Future Farmers of America.

Orange and purple are Clemson colors. Martin was a founding member of the Clemson University Bluegrass Ensemble and an accomplished banjo player.

Quilts have long held a place in our culture as the custodians of memories and experience. They serve as reminders of the ones we loved, of the pleasure and comfort conveyed by family. Martin’s Vitality will be an enduring reminder of the Happy Farmer – the young man who lived his life with joy and purpose.

#251 Affairs of the Heart in Pickens, SC

Affairs of the Heart, a multiple quilt block installation inspired by a quilt made by Beth Eastman of Pickens, SC. Three separate blocks from Eastman’s appliqué quilt hang above the three windows on the façade of the tavern. As the name implies, the heart motif appears in each block design. The soft multi-colored palette of the quilt pops against a black background.

The original quilt was a “blocks of the month” quilt designed by Aie Rossman and offered by a Texas company, Stitching Heaven – three new block patterns arriving each month. Eastman fell in love with it and completed it in 2016. Her quilt won a 1st place ribbon at the Upcountry Quilters Guild show in 2017 as well as a Venders’ Choice award.

The blocks are machine appliquéd (stitched) onto the black background with a small blanket stitch. Additional hand embroidered yellow hearts and spirals mirror elements within each block’s design. The sashing fabric framing the blocks is a multi-colored embroidery motif print.

Appliquéd blocks such as these are constructed by cutting out the design elements from fabric, arranging them on a background, then securing them with stitching.

Eastman’s “free motion” quilted Affairs of the Heart was her very first attempt at employing this method of quilting to finish a piece. “Free motion” quilting requires the quilter to move the fabric manually under the needle, rather than the machine feed dogs carrying the fabric forward. The quilter is able to move the quilt top in any direction and can sew an infinite number of designs with this method.

Eastman moved to Pickens in 2008 and began quilting in 2009. Thanks to her sister’s encouragement, she purchased a sewing machine and took her first quilt class at Heirlooms and Comforts in Central, SC. Like so many quilters before her, she was hooked. She is a member of Upcountry Quilters Guild and sews every day for about five hours. She is active in her guild and particularly enjoys making Quilts of Valor. Her first Quilt of Valor was made for her husband. She worked for many years in the nuclear power industry and retired after serving as a technical writer at the Oconee Nuclear Station.

Amy Barrett, owner of Burning Brick Tavern, the site of this installation, is delighted to have Affairs of the Hearts grace her business. Affairs of the Heart is one of the Pickens area quilt blocks sponsored through a grant provided by the Pickens County A-tax Commission. The grant was secured by Kim Smagala of the Greater Pickens Chamber of Commerce.

When offered a chance to have a Quilt Trail block installed on the tavern, Amy chose Affairs of the Heart because of the way its bright colors “popped” against its black background. “My grandmother quilted and she tried very hard to teach me, but sadly that talent died with her. I regret not giving it the time it deserved. So I am very appreciative of anyone who can create these beautiful pieces of art,” said Amy. “I am very happy to be included in the Quilt Trail.”

#252 Resurgence in Salem, SC

Susan Carson Clark’s innovative art quilt, Resurgence, and the UHQT block that it inspired have found a new home at The Wine Emporium near Keowee Key in Salem. Both the block and the quilt had previously been at the Keowee Key residence of Arland McMullen. Arland purchased this quilt block – donated by UHQT – at a fund raiser for Hospice of the Foothills. When he discovered that the block derived from an existing quilt, he contacted Susan who agreed to sell it to him.

Arland was very active in the Keowee Key community, serving on its Board of Directors and as its president during his second term. Sadly, he lost his battle with cancer in December of 2017. His daughter Miranda then donated the block and the quilt to The Wine Emporium, a most appropriate site choice given the fact that Arland had been a former president of Les Marmitons, a wine and epicurean club.

Susan Clark’s quilt evolved from a piece of hand-dyed Ricky Tims fabric and his general instructions for using it in a quilt. Its bright colors were the inspiration for this piece. Begun in 2010, Clark set it aside after piecing the curves together because the next step was to cut it into several strips and stitch it back together with additional fabric. Clark says, “I couldn’t bear the thought of destroying such beautiful curves of gorgeous fabrics! When my friend Gil Huggins asked me to finish it and let the Quilt Trail use it as the design for a block to be donated to a charity auction, I networked with quilting friends for advice. I chose to leave the piece whole and add a dark, narrow inner border and a wider outer border of the hand-dyed fabric with no binding. I love the idea of improvisation, of free-flowing designs and learning from, instead of following, exact cutting directions for every block.”

“My mother taught me to sew when I was in the fifth grade because I was interested in the 4-H Dress Revue. I made a chartreuse sleeveless shift with a rose appliqué, earning a red ribbon. Mom and Clemson Extension agent Carolyn Harris have been my role models as I added quilting to my apparel sewing interests.” Her quilt’s name, Resurgence, means rebirth or renewal and seems especially appropriate now that both the quilt and the block can be appreciated by anyone who visits The Wine Emporium, thanks to the generosity of the McMullen family.

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