A! Magazine for the Arts

Guild designs quilt for museum

October 30, 2013

When the Birthplace of Country Music Museum opens, the work of the local Embroiderers' Guild of America's chapter will be one of the first things visitors see. The group has designed and is creating a quilt that will be on display.

The project began because Nita Vollmer is on the Birthplace of Country Music Board of Directors and the museum curator asked her if the guild would create a quilt for the grand opening in August 2014. The guild agreed that this would be an excellent way to showcase their art and give back to the community.

"We wanted the quilt to be very special and formed a group of two cross stitchers and two quilters within our guild," Vollmer says. "We met and just started throwing out ideas. It was truly amazing, the creativity that came out of that meeting. We started with the center, and the concept grew from there. The centerpiece of the quilt will spell the "Birthplace of Country Music' stitched in Assisi. Assisi is counted thread embroidery based on an ancient Italian needlework tradition in which the background is stitched and the main motif is not stitched. From that base of work, the rest of the quilt has been conceived; from there, the rest of the inner blocks have been designed. The outside blocks will be traditional quilt blocks from the 1800s to the present."

The letters in the center of the quilt are silk thread on a linen background. The color palette is based on the color scheme of the museum. The rest of the quilt is traditional cotton quilt fabric. The design conceptually ties into roots music with the roots and branches of a tree winding throughout. The quilt also references music by including the title "Will the Circle be Unbroken," stitched above the center.

Almost the entire guild membership is participating in creating the quilt. Vollmer says that it isn't difficult to create a cohesive look, even with so many different stitchers. "Our membership is truly a talented group of women and two men. All those participating have a great talent to produce quality work that we are so proud of. The membership has embraced the concepts, and it has been great fun to be engaged with our membership."

Vollmer got started working with cross stitch because her mother-in-law and sister-in-law encouraged her. Then she visited the EGA meetings and was hooked. "I have two sisters and a nephew who are artists," she says. "I have no ability to draw at all. Stitching is a way for me to feel a little artistic. Although artists say copying someone else's work is not artistic, it's the closest I will ever get. Stitching is an art and has a definite technique. Those of us who stitch take great pride in our technique, and we love studying the details of the pieces we are stitching."

Vollmer says she wanted to learn how to execute all the specialty stitches, and the women who owned the former cross stitch store in Bristol, Va., told her "just take it one stitch at a time."

Her favorite things to stitch are old reproduction samplers and new samplers. "It amazes me that young girls stitched samplers in grade school. We stitch them now as reproduction samplers, but these girls stitched them in grade school. We stitch them as adults and are amazed at their skill in stitching."

Vollmer may be amazed at the skills those young girls had, but she has won awards with her skills at the Appalachian Fair and at juried exhibits.

Like other members of the guild, Vollmer enjoys the companionship of people who share her love of the art. She says that the retreat weekends are "a time for us to get away and stitch with no home responsibilities. We get to hang out with all of our stitching buddies, which is a big part of loving the art - that is, to hang out with kindred spirits, and see what everyone is working on. We all love being around each other and have a love of the needle arts. We have so much fun at these events.

"We also go to teaching events together and learn new stitching techniques. This year we were able to bring a teacher to Bristol through a grant. Twenty EGA members participated, and we had a blast. We love this one-on-one teaching experience. But we also have monthly projects where our members share their knowledge with us and teach us projects.

"We love to get new members. Some people are hesitant to come because they don't think they are advanced stitchers. But none of us think that way. We want stitchers of all levels to come and join us. We have fun at everything we do, and love to teach and love to learn. We are always trying new stitching concepts, whether it be cross stitch, needle felting, punch needle, rug hooking ... anything with a needle is fair game."

When the Bristol Country Music Museum opens, pay it a visit and look at the quilt that is a labor of love, containing thousands of stitches that took hundreds of hours and the hard work of an entire guild to create. If you're then inspired to pick up a needle, they'll be glad to teach you.

>> Richard Rollins enjoys the fellowship of stitching