Local quilter's work on display at national museum in Kentucky

March 25, 2012|By MARIE GILBERT |
  • Patty Prodonovich of Hagerstown stands in front of her quilt, "Bits and Pieces," which is on display at The National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Ky., as part of the museum's "Quilts of the Appalachian East."
Submitted photo

There was a time when almost everything was made by hand — from shirts and dresses to curtains and toys.

And when fabric items became worn and frayed, they weren't discarded. Instead, they were stitched into comfortable quilts.

Our ancestors were early recyclers, using every piece of cloth they owned to make one-of-a-kind coverlets.

But as time and technology moved forward, people no longer were limited to sewing little cotton and wool squares into neatly patterned bed covers. They could buy them mass produced.

Today, however, talented artisans still labor in the creative tradition of their ancestral folk.

In an era when even art is computer generated, there are those with an appreciation for quality and uniqueness and a love for needle and thread.

Patty Prodonovich is one such person.

Since the late 1980s, the Hagerstown resident has had a passion for quilting.

She had tried her hand at knitting, crocheting, embroidery and crewel work, but "when I landed on quilting, I fell in love," she said.

Unlike some quilters who have had the talent passed down to them from past generations, Prodonovich said she doesn't recall anyone else in her family who made quilts.

"As far as I know, I'm the only one. My grandmother sewed and that interested me as a youngster," she said. "But I never pursued it."

It wasn't until she was an adult looking for a therapeutic hobby that she discovered the beauty of piecing together odd scraps of material.

"Once I tried it, I couldn't stop," Prodonovich recalled.

Not only was quilting an outlet for creativity, she said, it was relaxing after a long day at work.

"I would come home from the office, start quilting, and all the problems of the day were forgotten," she said. "It definitely was good therapy."

Even her husband noticed the difference in her demeanor and decided to find a hobby of his own, Prodonovich shared.

"He saw how chilled out I was after a long day, so he began learning how to hook rugs," she said.

Over the past 30 years, Prodonovich has immersed herself in quilting, spending several hours a day on new creations, as well as teaching classes and participating in area guilds.

It was at a guild meeting that Prodonovich learned about a juried exhibit at the Mecca for quilters — The National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Ky.

The nonprofit institution was inviting members of quilt guilds in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia to submit their finest work for an exhibit called "Quilts of the Appalachian East."

Only 11 quilts would be selected.

"One of the guild officers encouraged me to submit an entry," Prodonovich said. "Gee, Paducah, I thought. Eleven quilts. I told them I would look into it just to be polite. But after I got home, I figured what did I have to lose? Go ahead and do it."

Prodonovich said she submitted, what she calls, "a scrappy quilt."

"I always have a lot of fabric on my shelves — I'm a bargain hunter — so I had all the material I needed on hand," she said. "The color scheme is mid-pastels, multiple colors, with an emphasis on dusty blue."

It is appropriately named "Bits and Pieces."

Prodonovich said the quilt is an original composition — not from a pattern.

"I pieced and appliqued the quilt top by machine and it took about six months for the total process — design and actual stitching," she said.

The quilt also was awarded the Best in Show at Rose Hill Manor Quilt Show in Frederick, Md., and a Blue Ribbon at Quilt Odyssey in Hershey, Pa.

When she received an email notifying her that her quilt had been selected for the Kentucky show, "I just about fell over," she laughed. "I remember hollering and my husband asked what was wrong. I told him nothing was wrong, everything was right."

Prodonovich recently traveled to the Kentucky museum to see her quilt on display.

"It was a wonderful experience," she said. "To know that I was one of 11 quilters to have their work selected for this exhibit was really something."

Prodonovich said photographs cannot be taken of the quilts, "but the curator knew I was coming and took several photos for me, including me with my quilt."

While she has had her quilts displayed at numerous shows and festivals, Prodonovich said her selection for the museum exhibit is a huge honor.

"When I teach students quilting, I sometimes tell them that they are trying to be too perfect — that they get hung up on small things, she said. "I've joked, ‘Are you entering this in Paducah?' Well, now I've had something exhibited in Paducah. To a quilter, that's thrilling."

But it won't mark the last major event in her quilting career.

"I plan on quilting for as long as I can. I truly love it," she said. "I think it's because I can just see my work growing. There's always progress."

And for those who don't think they have the skills to quilt, Prodonovich says think again.

"You don't have to be a patient person. I'm certainly not," she said. "The hardest part of making a quilt is probably picking the fabric."

If you go ...

WHAT: "Quilts of the Appalachian East"

WHEN: Exhibit continues through Tuesday, April 3

WHERE: The National Quilt Museum, 215 Jefferson St., Paducah, Ky.

COST: $11, adults; $9, ages 60 and older; $5 students; free for children 12 and younger

CONTACT: Call 270-442-8856 or go to

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