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Pennsylvania Quilts

Everybody has a story about a quilt. It might be about a quilt passed down through generations, or a child's security blanket that gets worn to pieces. And many quilts are never meant to be bed covers, instead they are art pieces that are displayed in galleries next to canvas and sculpture. Viewers across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania will see all kinds of quilts - and the wide variety of people who make them - in WQED Multimedia's local program, "Pennsylvania Quilts."

It's a show that could only take place in Pennsylvania, where the quilting tradition is centuries old and the nationwide revival of the craft in the ‘70s began with quilts created by Lancaster's Amish women. But as one of the show's featured quilters says, "These aren't your grandmother's quilts!" "Pennsylvania Quilts" features innovative and creative people inventing new ways of quilting, entrepreneurs and authors who have made quilting into a career, and even one man who doesn't sew, but his efforts have resulted in hundreds of quilts. Meet groups of friends and family members bound together by their scraps and stitches…they're young and old, male and female, people of all races whose lives all share a common thread: quilting.


Lancaster County
Lancaster County
Rachel Pellman knows a lot about quilts. She's a quilter, an author who has written about Amish quilting traditions, and the owner of a small business that distributes kits to make quilts all over the country.

Rachel works at Lancaster County's Quilt and Textile Museum to document Amish quilts. The museum's executive director Peter Seibert keeps the collection, which was acquired from collectors in San Francisco, in fine shape for everyone to enjoy.

Quilters in Lancaster are busy today making tomorrow's heirlooms. The Mennonite Central Committee has a team of volunteers who make quilts for raffles, and the proceeds benefit relief work worldwide. Find out when there's a relief sale happening near you. You can also buy Amish quilts stitched by hand at Sylvia Petershiem at her home in Bird-in-Hand. Stop by if you travel to the area or call for more information: 717/392-6404.

Alexis and her cousin, Kendall, are both Philadelphia residents and aspiring quilters, though both girls are still in elementary school. The cousins each entered a small wall quilt in a competition for kids, and took a prize. Alexis' mom is also a quilter, and says while there’s no tradition of quilting in her family, her grandmother always stressed to her that it was "important to do something with your hands."

Quiltie LadiesAnd a little farther north, the variable star quilters started quilting in 1977, and they’re better known as the "Quiltie Ladies." Now the 16 women, are teachers, accomplished quilters, grandmothers and still friends. They're even featured in their own fabric line and have published a book. We profile this guild and the unique women that comprise it.

Mike Lizonitz
Mike Lizonitz has helped make hundreds, probably thousands of quilts – though he's not a quilter and didn't wield a needle or sewing machine in the process. Mike recognized that textile factories in Scranton were throwing away tons of fabric, and rather than rotting in landfills, Mike had the idea to send it to quilters. Mike is no longer sending out scraps, but you can learn more about his efforts on his website.

The Quilter's Apprentice
Central PA/Penn State
Jennifer Chiaverini used to teach writing at Penn State, and while she was there she was inspired to writes books by her hobby and her home. "The Quilter's Apprentice" was the first of a best-selling series of books that focus on a fictional group of quilters that live, work, sew and teach in a fictional Pennsylvania town. Jennifer's books weave together stories about quilters with inspiration from Pennsylvania's rich quilting tradition. Check out the "Elm Creek Quilts" series on the web.

Sara Quilt
Northwest PA
Clarion County is home to a quilt that's exceptional. To begin with, it's 200 years old, and it was created for a baby – so it's pretty astounding that it's survived. It has, and it's a family heirloom that's passed down through generations of women named Sara.

Southwest PA
Southwest PA
College credit for quilting? It happens at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where students learn the art of fibers and use IUPquilting as a way to finish pieces. Check out studio and fiber art studies at IUP's art department website.

Shawn Quinlan
Two unique individual quilters make their homes and art in the Pittsburgh area. Shawn Quinlan uses quilts to make statements – often political. He uses images in fabric to create collages that express his views.

Sandra German's quilts also express her thoughts and feelings, and are exceptional for the creativity she employs to German Lagoonscreate them on one of her 403 sewing machines. Sandra's also a collector of just about everything quilt-related, and her passion is reflected in the quilts she makes in her studio, which used to be a horse stable.

Quilters make quilts for others, so it's no surprise that a group of co-workers were moved on 9/11 to create a memorial quilt. But what they created is a 8-foot tall, 30-foot long, 6 panel masterpiece with a block for every victim of the terror attacks. Known as the National Tribute Quilt, it's now part of the permanent collection of the American Folk Art Museum in New York City.

Tribute Quilt


PPTN Funding for this program was provided by the Pennsylvania Public Television Network. The network receives funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to provide public television for all Pennsylvanians. And of course, by viewers like you. Thank you.

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