By Troy Treasure
Barbara Latchford and Nancy Wood live on opposite sides of the county. Beyond their family bond, the sisters share an interest in quilting.
Latchford and Wood are two of 16 members in a group called the Sewcial Stitchers Club. The informal get-togethers began in January 2019. The quilters meet the first Monday of every month at Stitch & Clip Quilting in Lentner.
Barbara, who lives north of Lakenan, began quilting years ago producing items for her children. But once she began a career with the U.S. Postal Service, there was not much time and quilting went on hiatus. Upon retiring in 2011, she was back at it again.
Wood resides south of Clarence and has a similar story. She did not quilt for several years raising a family but later returned to it. Nancy worked on a very special project last year.
“I made a quilt for my daughter. The blocks were set together in the middle with material from her bridesmaid dresses,” Nancy said. “She ended up with a really nice keepsake for Christmas last year. That was real fun.”
Barbara indicated she enjoys the camaraderie of Sewcial Stitchers. Enthusiasm for the subject at hand can be infectious.
“We all pretty much know each other, anyway, from being in close contact in the county, it’s so small,” she said. “We have things to talk about; we laugh a lot and gig each other a lot. We just have a really good time together.”
Both Latchford and Wood have attended the National Quilt Show, held twice annually in Paducah, Kentucky. Nancy described the experience as amazing.
“A lot of it was machine quilting, there was some hand-stitched quilting,” she said. “The machine quilting is just out of this world. It’s just unbelievable what people can do with a machine. There was a lot of it free-hand but there were computer projects there, too.
“The scenery ones were what fascinated me. It looked like you were looking at a painting.”
The group enjoys and encourages new members. Latchford recalled when Nancy Jarboe joined.
“She has sewn all her life but she’s always sewn clothes,” Barbara said. “Quilting is different; it’s a whole different process. She’s really getting into it now and that’s fun to watch.
“She’s really learned a lot from us and we’ve picked up things from her, too, because she is an excellent seamstress, she’s a tailor almost.”
Quilting has its own terminology. For example, there are layer cakes and jelly rolls. According to Latchford, a layer cake is a bundle of 12-inch squares. A jelly roll is a roll of two-and-a-half inch strips. She chuckled at the thought newcomers might initially think they mistakenly signed up for a cooking class.
Cheryl Bowling owns Stitch & Clip Quilting in Lentner. Michelle and Adam Ratley own Midwest Quilt Company in Shelbina. All three are passionate about their productions. Longarm computerized machine quilting is done at both locations.
Bowling answered yes when asked if it was fair to equate quilt making with putting together a puzzle.
“People will say, ‘why do you cut up fabric and then put it all back together?’ To create something. It’s that creativity,” she added. “They say every quilt has a story.”
A prized-possession for Bowling is a quilt hand pieced by a great-grandmother for Cheryl’s mother. When appraised, she was told the quilt contained fabric from the 1920s and 30s.
Michelle Ratley indicated quilt shops in northern Missouri combined six years ago to establish the Highway 36 Quilt Trail. It runs from Hannibal to St. Joseph. As the story goes, former actress Maureen McCormick, who portrayed Marcia Brady in the television series “The Brady Bunch,” once hit the Trail.
Since there are currently two quilt shops in the county, both Cheryl and Michelle indicated they have seen an uptick in interest for the craft. In some cases, it is individuals looking for something to do.
“You hear people all the time (say), ‘I had no idea so many people quilted,’” Cheryl said. “I think it’s just really brought back the enthusiasm in this area and people have kind of gotten back into sewing or wanting to learn how to sew.”
“I think the young people are coming because they are from an age of electronics, the age of technology. You can be extremely creative with technology, but it’s not hands-on. It’s through a computer,” Michelle said.
“With textiles, we’re seeing a huge boom with knitting, crocheting, tatting, needle arts,” Michelle continued. “The thing that has changed for the quilt industry is that due to technology, we can now make things in a weekend what used to take our mothers and grandmothers six months to a year. With a microwave society, that’s huge.”
Adam Ratley is a man of many interests and skills. While in the United States Air Force, he worked in intelligence among other duties. He was once stationed at Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs, Colorado, operations center for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
At one point, his wife needed assistance with the quilting operation. Adam indicated he never dreamed he would become a quilter. But since taking it up, he has not looked back.
Some quilters seem to thrive on spontaneity while others want to start with a blueprint and take the step-by-step approach. Then, there is combination of both.
In the end, the creation is born of imagination. It concludes with a portrayal.
Every quilt has a story.