Sometimes it takes outsiders to show the hometowners what they have. Such is the case with Jan and Peter Hutchison of Sedgwick. They basically moved here from Colorado Springs for the quilting.
What's that? You say you had no idea?
"I think people don't realize how big a quilting culture there is," Jan Hutchison says in a studio built behind her and her husband's Victorian house. The studio (Jan calls it "the playhouse") was built to hold a 14-foot long-arm quilting machine that Jan uses to quilt the tops that others have pieced. "It's an industry, really."
You can see a testament to the culture of quilting in the Wichita area next weekend at the Common Threads Quilt Show at Century II. The show is put on every other year by the local Prairie Quilt Guild, which has more than 700 members. More than 900 quilts will be on display, including some of Jan Hutchison's award-winning pieces. Two hundred of the quilts, including a couple of Jan's, will be judged.
"It's a big show," her husband says. He retired while living in Colorado Springs and decided he had one more adventure in him. The man who had been born in West Virginia and once lived in Hawaii decided that Sedgwick, about 20 miles north of Wichita, would be it.
His wife, who taught and performed classical flute in Colorado Springs and Denver, got into quilting nine years ago when she decided she'd like to finish a quilt her grandmother had pieced.
Jan's grandmother's quilt still sits unfinished in the studio, but the desire did get Jan to learn how to quilt. Artsy by instinct and training, she started with a hand-quilting class and loved it.
"Then I took a machine-quilting class and loved that more," she said.
She eventually got tired of all the driving she was doing between Colorado Springs and Denver and decided to pursue quilting as her job.
Five years ago, she and Peter checked out a long-arm quilting machine in Missouri, then drove through Sedgwick to check out the Victorian house Jan had seen for sale on the Internet. She and Peter were looking for a new place to live, something quieter than Colorado Springs — a small town that was near the amenities of a city.
The Hutchisons not only saw the house, but also visited a few quilt shops while they were here.
"We liked the quilt shops, the people," Jan says. The Wichita quilt guild is one of the biggest in the country, and "it's a very friendly guild," Jan says. The popularity of quilting in the Wichita area also meant a large customer base for Jan.
She and Peter moved to Sedgwick a few months later and have since formed Ladybug House Quilting.
"People bring me their finished quilt top, and I layer it with batting and backing and I sew a design on it and make it into a quilt," Jan says.
She finishes about two quilts a week for customers. Even with a bad economy, or maybe because of it, her business has been steady, maybe even a bit on the rise, Jan says.
She will be one of three featured quilters at the show next weekend. They are quilters who like to design their own quilts rather than follow a pattern. The show will also feature vendors, classes and a mini-quilt auction at noon June 26 whose proceeds go to provide grants for teachers to provide quilt education in schools. Bid cards will be available from 10 a.m. to noon that day.
Peter will be part of a panel discussion during the show on why men do — or, in his case, don't — quilt. It will be at 3 p.m. June 26.
Says Peter: "I like quilts and the whole life ... the people, the shows, the vendors." He's a member of the guild and is even, along with his wife, on the steering committee for the show.
For more information about the show, including the class schedule, go to the website wichitaquiltshow.com.
For more information on the Prairie Quilt Guild, see the website www.pqgks.com or call extension agent Denise Dias at 316-660-0100.