Quilters share stitches at Colley Complex

Published 10:50 pm Monday, February 20, 2012

The quilters at the Colley Senior Complex are accustomed to people poking their heads in the quilting room to see what’s “in the frame.”

And, most of the time, they see familiar quilting patterns like the Lone Star, Grandma’s Garden and the Log Cabin. But, every now and then, they’ll ask, “Tell me about this quilt.”

And the quilters have been asked that a lot recently.

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“This is a state flower quilt and I don’t think you’ll see another one like it,” said Jewell Griffin, who brought the quilt top to be quilted. “It’s one of the most unusual quilts I have ever seen.”

The age of the quilt is unknown, as is the quilter.

“We’re not sure how old the quilt top is but there are only 48 flowers so we know it was made before Alaska and Hawaii became states (1959),” Griffin said. “The quilt top was a gift to the daughter of my niece’s sister when she graduated from high school. My niece’s sister had a friend embroider the top as a gift.”

Being a big-eyed girl with the whole world waiting for her, Toni Wiley (Hoffman) wasn’t all that excited about the handmade gift.

“She said she would rather have had five dollars,” Griffin said, laughing.

Love entered the picture and Toni Wiley married John Hoffman, a career military man. They traveled the world over.

“Although she wasn’t all that fond of the quilt top, it went with her to every duty station around the world and those right here in the United States,” Griffin said. “When John Hoffman retired from the military, they settled in Birmingham and they both went into teaching.”

Anita Griffin decided it would be a wonderful surprise for Toni Hoffman if someone would finally quilt the top that had traveled around the world.

Griffin had only to look to her Aunt Jewell and her fellow quilters.

“She had to get on the waiting list and when her name came up, we were all amazed at the needlework on the quilt top,” Jewel Griffin said. “It’s amazing. There is no telling how many hours went into embroidering top. Some of the stitches are so tiny that you have to have a magnifying glass to see them. This is some of the most detailed embroidery work that I have ever seen on a quilt.”

As the quilters worked, they became familiar with the flowers of the 48 Continental United States and each quilter has a favorite.

“But we all like Alabama’s state flower, the camellia,” said Dorothy Norris. “It’s got many, many little stitches and it’s so pretty.”

Griffin said, when she was growing up, the flower that Alabama has adopted as its state flower was called “japonica.”

“It was pink and not as rosy but it was the same flower we now call the camellia,” she said. “

Mary Turner said several states have the same flower. “There are several golden rods, violets and dogwoods. Maine has the pinecone and Mississippi and Louisiana both have the magnolia. New York has the rose. And one of the most unusual is Oklahoma’s state flower, mistletoe.”

Red clover, orange blossoms, bitterroot and cactus all make appearances on the quilt.

“We’ve really enjoyed quilting this one,” Griffin said. “We’ve learned about the states and their flowers and, as the same time, admired the needlework that went into this quilt.”

The quilters bordered the quilt with the shield design that frames each of the 48 flowers. The quilt is a thing of true beauty.

“Toni Hoffman would rather have had five dollars than this old quilt,” Turner said.

“She’s going to be surprised when she sees it. Because it’s now priceless.”