May 07. 2005 12:00AM

Removed during renovations, cherished quilt back in City Hall
Jonathan Rich
Times-News Staff Writer

Photography by Robert L. Coon, Jr.

Carla Rodio talks about the history of the quilt now hanging in a meeting room at the newly renovated Hendersonville City Hall.


Photography by Robert L. Coon, Jr.

L-R   Mayor Pro Tem Ron Stephens, Shirley R. Coon, Carla Rodio,
Isabel Hanenberg, and Marge Ninness.

To Hendersonville resident Carla Rodio, the patchwork quilt hanging on the wall of a conference room in City Hall is more than just a collection of stitched-together fabric.

"This quilt is a document about a special time in Hendersonville's history," Rodio said Friday afternoon as she and several members of the Tar Heels Piecemakers and the Western North Carolina Quilters Guild gave their work to city officials for a second time.

The groups sponsored a community project that created the 71 x 96 inch quilt in 1988. What began as a collaborative work at an Arts Council festival 17 years ago today was given to city officials later that year. The quilt was displayed prominently at Hendersonville City Hall for more than a decade until it was removed as part of recent renovations to the historic 1928 building.

Friday Rodio brought the quilt back to City Hall where it now adorns a wall in a conference room across the way from the City Council chambers.

"This quilt contains not only the names you see on it, but the efforts of many hands and minds that made it a reality," she said as she took a closer look at the hand-written signatures on the zig-zag patterns of 140 donated cloth blocks that make up the quilt.

"All kinds of people were making blocks; elderly couples, young couples, parent and child and many school kids," Rodio said, pointing at the patterns with a yard stick. "They were witnessing the magic of color, form, line and contrast that makes art, and they were part of it. It was a special day for all of us."

While many of those children are now adults, Rodio is certain they remember taking part in the special project.

"This shows the spirit of cooperation and fellowship that gives a place like Hendersonville the sense of a hometown for all of us," she said. "Indeed, this quilt and this room in this restored building is the heart of what a community stands for. It's an honor to return it to City Hall."

Mayor Pro Tem Ron Stephens said he was delighted to accept the quilt on behalf of the city.

"This is a special item and it will get a lot of exposure here in City Hall," he said. "It will hang with pride here for many years to come."

Photography by Robert L. Coon, Jr.




Community Quilt Reinstallation by Carla Rodio

            Seventeen years ago tomorrow, May 7, 1988, the annual Arts Council Festival was held on the Rosa Edwards playground.  Among the many booths related to arts and crafts, was one where people could create a quilt block or square.  Those quilt blocks were set together to make the top for this wall hanging.  

            Planning for this event started the previous fall.  Barbara Eblen who was the Arts Council Director, called for interested people to present their ideas for activities during “Cultural Arts Day” at a meeting on October 14, 1987.  I came with the following proposal:  “Quiltmakers will help prepare, create, and assemble a collaborative crazy quilt to be hung in the Henderson County Courthouse.  The quilt will be in the crazy style constructed as individual blocks by participants of all ages during Cultural Arts Day on May 7, 1988 at a booth manned by members of local quilt guilds who will supervise this activity.”  All of this was realized except the final location for the quilt.  There are powers that knew more than I did at that time about choosing location.

            Then I went before the Tar Heels and WNCQG quilt groups to see if they would assist me in this daring scheme.  They willingly volunteered as ironers, machine sewers with their machines, quilt top assemblers, and quilt finishers.  So we went to work.  Some prepared scrap fabric, and cut paper squares.  Becky O’Donahue prepared signs and name tags.  Others practiced making blocks so we would know how to help participants.  We prepared for about 100 people.  The finished quilt contains 140 blocks.

            All the materials that went into this project were contributed.  Tony Palazzo, the manager at Cranston Printworks provided yardage for lining and borders.  W. E. Donald at Belding Corticelli contributed thread.  Mr. Hambre, Manager at Rose’s gave us marking pens, crosheen cotton for tying, and tag board for signs.  Nancy, manager at Foam & Fabric furnished batting.  Jean McRae provided thread.  Jan Zimmerman contributed freezer paper.  Throughout the winter we collected and prepared for the big event.  Barbara Eblen went on maternity leave and Karen Joyner became temporary director of the Arts Council.

            May 7, 1988 bloomed clear and sunny.  Extension cords were stretched down the  playground slope to our booth.  Women with irons, sewing machines, and scissors stood ready.  The curious kids came first and made their blocks.  Each one was told to write their name with a marking pen on a long strip of fabric, and place it diagonally on the freezer paper square.  Next they were instructed to fill in the two resulting triangles with any size, shape, or color scrap fabric of their choosing.  A hot iron adhered the fabric to the freezer paper, and the edges of fabric were trimmed to the edges of the square.  The participants were enchanted by the sewing machines embroidering all the raw edges of the fabric scraps.  The stitched blocks were pinned in rows on a large board.  The diagonal name strips were zig-zagged in one row and then zag-zigged in the following row and so on.  All kinds of people were making blocks; elderly couples, young couples, parent and child, many school kids.  As they watched the squares growing diamonds, they rushed to get friends to create more.  They were witnessing the magic of color, form, line, and contrast that makes art and they were part of it.  It was a special day for all of us.  The sewing machine operators were Shirley Coon, Joan Smith, Peggy Genung, Joan Pierro, Evelyn Frye, Irene Hicks, and Carla  Rodio.  Jeanette Ledbetter, Dottie Priscal, Evelyn Conger, and Ruth Kennerson were the ironers.  Cutters and trimmers were Marge Niness, Nester Harbin, Ann Wesley, and Terry Chalfant.          

All summer we worked on making a quilt out of those blocks.  We wanted to display it at the annual quilt show held during the Apple Festival.  First Irene Hicks snipped threads, cleaned, and  pressed  all  the blocks.  Audrey Tews, Isabel Hanenberg, Maud Miller, and Evelyn Frye sewed the blocks into rows.  Evelyn Frye sewed or set all the rows together.  Marge Niness and Carla Rodio, prepared the ½” and 3” borders that Ruth Challand sewed to the set blocks.  The quilt was ready to be tied to the batting and lining.

On  July 15 we set up the quilting frame in my garage  and had a good old quilting bee for the day.  Evelyn Yood, Peggy Genung, Joan Pierro, Katie Breckheimer, Ann Wesley, Evelyn Frye, Donna Edwards, Dottie Priscal, and Shirley Coon tied the quilt, gossiped, and ate a hearty lunch.  By the middle of August Evelyn Yood finished hand sewing the binding and the quilt was ready to show.   If any of the people whose names I have mentioned are here please raise your hands.  I’d like them to be recognized at this time.

  In September the Community Quilt stood like a sentinel at the entrance to the quilt show.  Mayor Michalove came the last day and was presented with the quilt.  At that time it was given to the City of Hendersonville to hang permanently in City Hall.   It was taken down for City Hall renovations in 1999.  Now it has returned home.

            This quilt is a document about a special time in Hendersonville’ s history.  It represents community.  It shows how people enjoy working together to create something worthwhile.  This quilt contains not only the names you see on it, but the efforts of many hands and minds that made it a reality.  This is the spirit of cooperation and fellowship that gives a place like Hendersonville the sense of a hometown for all of us.   Indeed, this quilt, this room, this restored building is the heart of what community stands for.  It is an honor to return this quilt to Mayor Niehoff and the City Hall.

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