Eight years in the making, quilt takes blue ribbon at state fair

September 08, 2004|EMILY TOADVINE

Illa Carey has learned that when it comes to the state fair, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

A quilt with a poinsettia pattern that she entered in the 2003 fair received a red ribbon in the category of pieced applique. But when she put it in the holiday category of this year's fair, it earned a blue ribbon.

"They say you have to know what category to put them in," says the 74-year-old Carey, who does her needlework in her home on Black Pike near Moreland.

Carey selected her pattern from one she received while in a pattern club. The story of the quilt was interesting as it had been made in 1875 for a Kentucky bride.


That quilt with its elaborate pattern of vines, leaves and baskets, also was entered in the state fair and won top honors. In the 1940s, the quilt was given to a family member in Florida where exposure to the sun caused it to be damaged.

It was returned to Kentucky and restored by the granddaughter of the maker. Today, the great-great-granddaughter owns it.

A storied past

Carey did not know when she offered to make a poinsettia pattern quilt in 1995 for her son-in-law, Larry Hasty of Elizabethtown, that her handiwork also would have a storied past.

"There's a history behind this one, too," says Carey, who dealt with her own illnesses and her husband's during the piecing of this quilt.

Carey was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997, which led to surgery and chemotherapy. In September of 1998, her husband, Clifton, fell and broke his knee cap and had surgery. He had pneumonia, and after being hospitalized for many months, he came home. Carey took care of him until his death in April 2000. In February 2001, Carey had pneumonia and required hospitalization. When she recovered from the pneumonia, she was determined to finished what she had started.

Carey says a quilt maker cannot be in a hurry.

"I'm patient. I'd have to be."

As an incentive for her to finish, Hasty and his wife, Phyllis, told Carey that an entry in the state fair was in the works when the quilt was finished. The quilt was finished in the spring of 2003 and off it went to earn a red ribbon.

Carey longed to see her work displayed in a wooden showcase like the blue ribbons winners, so they tried again to emerge successful.

Walking through the display area, Carey was overwhelmed when she saw her quilt displayed in the case this summer.

"I almost burst into tears when I saw it. I wanted it to be in a case last year," she says.

Carey also had to check out the teddy bears on display because she had entered one of her creations there. Last year's lavendar-colored bear won a blue ribbon, and this year's white bear took a red ribbon. Carey uses her old treadle Singer sewing machine to make the bears.

Grandson will get latest bear

Carey has tried to make sure every family member receives some of her handiwork and intends to give her latest bear to a grandson.

"Even the men want one," she says.

She owns a Bernina sewing machine that will make fancy stitches, but she has not relied on that for the latest quilts she is doing. She has hand-appliqued leaves in fall colors and started quilting the middle but is not sure if it will fill the bill for next year's state competition.

"They're rushing me," she says. "They want it in the fair next year."

When not involved with her state fair entries, Carey likes to keep company with the Baptist women's group at Moreland Baptist Church. "We like to go out and eat," she says.

Carey has several ideas for quilts she would like to start.

"I've always wanted to do a bear's paw with rose and brown, but I don't like too much brown."

She knows that her ideas may take years before they are displayed on someone's bed, but she doesn't let that deter her.

"You've got to love it or you couldn't do it."

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