Cathy Lester and Bev Brower

Cathy Lester and Bev Brower hold up one of the framed center / medallion quilts from the American Quilt Study Group.

HD SOUTH, the Home of the Gilbert Historical Museum, will be unveiling its 17th annual Art of Quilting show March 1.

Running through May 30, the show will focus on 25 framed center/medallion quilts from the American Quilt Study Group. 

Medallion quilts are exceptionally beautiful and of high quality and Kathy Lester, quilt bee volunteer, calls them “works of art.”

“They are all amazing and there are no simple ones. They are all very ornate and spectacular,” she said.

In addition to the 25 quilts from the traveling show, there will be 75 others, some owned by the members of the quilting bee and many on loan from the community. About 12 quilts are for sale and one red-and-white vintage quilt will be raffled.

Framed center/medallion quilts feature a central focus motif surrounded by a series of one or more borders designed to complement and accentuate it and achieve a balanced, formal effect.  

Those borders may be pieced, appliqued, quilted, embroidered or done with other techniques. The style was most prominent from the late 18th to the early 19th centuries, said Jill Meszaros, current Quilt Study chair and traveling exhibit coordinator of the American Quilt Study Group. 

The exhibition quilts were made by 25 members of the group as part of its biennial quilt study on the history of the style.  

The study challenges members to learn the history of a quilt by selecting one of a specified design, style or time, and then making a small replica or interpretation of it. In an artist statement, participants examine what they learned and evaluate influences on the original quiltmaker’s life, style and technique.

Those studied ranged from the very early 19th century to the first half of the 20th century.

Among the ones on display are Pamela Roberts Lindsey’s circa 1800 quilt, “The Bird Cage,” that uses some of the chintz palampores found in England in the early days of the medallion style; Leah Zieber’s “Solstice Supernova,” an English mosaic medallion made from hundreds of tiny hexagon fabrics; and Joan Duncan’s “Amelia’s Legacy,” a circa-1820 quilt made by cutting out chintz fabric motifs and appliqueing them to create the center design.

“I love the diversity of the quilts in the exhibit and the time frame they represent,” Meszaros said. “I also like how some of the quilts push our initial thoughts on how and what a medallion style quilt should look like.”  

 HD SOUTH quilting bee volunteers have been creating quilts to augment the traveling show. 

One of Lester’s quilts features triangles, called “flying geese,” which she machine-quilted, rather than sewed by hand, to save time. Another one, a center medallion with a simple design, highlights fabric pictures of snowmen offset by polar bears. She completed it with Minky fabric that added a luxurious softness and heaviness to the product. 

Bev Zabkiewicz hand-quilted a medallion highlighting a lace doily at the center and surrounding it with other shapes. 

The museum’s old-fashioned quilting bee has been in existence since 2002. Volunteers complete unfinished quilt tops for the public with all proceeds going to the nonprofit HD South. They charge $7 per foot to fasten the quilt tops to inner batting and backing and complete the quilt. Orders come from across the country and typically there’s a waiting list.

The quilters can complete up to 20 quilts a year. 

Before the pandemic, they used to work diligently three days a week. During the past two years, however, it had dwindled to just one day a week, but now, they have resumed their normal schedule.  

“We came no matter what,” Lester said. “It’s therapeutic.”

The bee had 20 members previously, but has lost about six due to the pandemic as well.

“We’re always looking for new people,” Lester said. 

Newcomers of any skill level are welcome to join. They can be assured of assistance to develop sewing skills, a calm environment in which to work and camaraderie.  

Phyllis Starner is working on completing one such quilt, a large one for which the owner paid $400. She plans to finish it in about three months.

“A grandmother probably made it in the 40s or 50s,” Lester noted, adding that it has to be completed by hand because of its antiquity. 

Starner, who comes in three days a week and has been a member for three years, loves her craft. 

“It’s just relaxing to just sit in total quiet and just push the needle up and down and move the quilt as you go,” she said. “Once you get a row done, then we roll it in.”

“It’s relaxing and productive at the same time,” Lester added.

Museum admission is required for one-time access to the quilt exhibit, running from March 1 to May 30. Admission is $6 adult; $5 senior, (ages 60 plus); $3 youth, (ages 5-12). Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 

Details: 480-926-1577 or