Quilt maker an Apple Butter Festival tradition

October 07, 2005|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - A local quilt maker who has made the Apple Butter Festival quilt for 14 years recently was inducted into the Apple Butter Festival Hall of Fame by the Morgan County-Berkeley Springs Chamber of Commerce.

Rika Bennett said she was commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce to make the Apple Butter quilts. Tickets are sold by the Chamber, and the quilt is raffled off Sunday, the second day of the annual festival.

The queen-size "Blue Virginia Star" quilt is Bennett's latest creation and will be displayed in Berkeley Springs State Park during the festival.


Bennett said she is honored to be the official quilt maker for the festival.

"People tell me they have been trying to win one of my quilts for years," she said.

Bennett has lived in Berkeley Springs since 1978.

"I've always been a country girl, and I fell in love with the area," she said.

Founding member

She is a founding member of the Delectable Mountains Quilt Guild, a local quilting group. The guild will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year, she said.

Bennett said the Delectable Mountains Quilt Guild has found "high energy" with new members joining.

"In the last five years, the guild has become more visible in the community and more people are now interested in quilting," she said.

People are starting to cherishing quilts more, Bennett said.

Bennett said there is something about a quilting group helping each other that makes the quilt special.

"One of my favorite things is to get younger people involved, and I am a mentor to a new person in the guild. It will fade if we don't pass it on," she said.

Bennett said the quilting guild started with a small membership of about 10 to 15 people and has grown to about 35 to 40 members.

The Delectable Mountains Quilt Guild will stage its annual show at the Ice House in May, and the 2006 Apple Butter Festival quilt will be ready, she said.

Jean Ray Laury, "a nationally known, very famous quilter," will lecture on quilt making and present two classes on dyeing and printing quilting fabrics, Bennett said.

Bennett said she stopped hand quilting about 15 years ago due to carpal tunnel syndrome. She said when machine quilting was introduced, it was not well-accepted by the purists. After seeing how intricate and difficult machine quilting is, those who judged it unfavorably now find it valuable.

"All my quilts are machine made," she said.

Quilting is making a comeback

A big revival of quilting happened in 1976 along with the Bicentennial celebration, she said. And quilting became more popular with the resurgence of country decorating, Bennett said.

Good quality fabrics are also in high demand.

"We've gone from $1.59 a yard for chintz or calico to $10 a yard for batik and finer-quality specialty fabrics," Bennett said.

Only 100 percent natural fabrics such as cotton or silk are preferred for quilts, she said.

Bennett was born in Farnham, Surrey, England. Her father and mother met there when he was serving in the Canadian Army during World War II. After the war, they went to Montreal and later moved to Severna Park, Md., when Bennett was 7.

She said she has been interested in quilting since 14 when she went to a festival in Kutztown, Pa.

"There was a big barn filled with quilts," she said.

She noticed the textured quality in quilting and started to make them at 18.

Beth Peters Curtin, the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce and the Apple Butter Festival coordinator, said: "For her beautiful creations and her willingness to invent a new, and ever popular offering each year, the Chamber of Commerce is both grateful and delighted to induct Rika Bennett into the Apple Butter Festival Hall of Fame."

If you go ...

What: 32nd annual Apple Butter Festival

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Throughout Berkeley Springs, including the Berkeley Springs State Park and surrounding streets

Cost: Free

For more information: Go to or call 800-447-8797.

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