Stitch in time

Union Grove Woman to compete in Quilt Contest

by Karen Mahoney

Yvonne Parks has made quilts for birthday gifts, anniversaries, charity events, and the birth of babies. She is an expert at creatively marrying colorful fabric and thread into patterns with nostalgic names, such as one of her most recent, “Butterflies in My Garden.”

On a whim, Parks, of Union Grove entered the pink and green king sized quilt into the Wisconsin Quilt Expo quilt contest and was accepted. The ten-category juried and judged contest is part of the Quilt Expo held Thursday September 10 through Saturday, September 12 in the Exhibition Hall at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison.

She is competing for one of three cash awards in her category. The first place winner in each category receives $500, second place $300 and third place $300. The winner of the Best in Show over all categories will receive $1500. Additionally, a Viewers Choice winner, voted on by Quilt Expo attendees will receive $500.

By the looks of her advanced piecing, machine quilting and appliqué techniques, most would assume that Parks employs a lifetime of experience in her work.

Not so.

The mom of two children and grandmother to six began quilting just 20 months ago. That’s right, 20 months ago.

“I am an accountant, so during tax season I don’t quilt at all,” she said. “So basically, I quilt for seven months out of the year.”

While she is an accomplished seamstress, having made many of her own clothing pieces over the years, quilting is an art that she reluctantly attempted.

“My mom, Rose Gibbs has been quilting for many years, and my sister, Cindy Sapinski started a few years ago,” said Parks. “They both loved it and began pestering me to quilt. So, I started it a couple of years ago and was surprised to find that I really liked it.”

Although distance separates the three, Gibbs lives in Madison and Sapinski in Minneapolis, quilting has brought them closer together than Parks ever thought possible.

“We have a lot of fun and often quilt together, attend shows and go to different shops together,” said Parks.

After she sent in a photo of her completed quilt and a couple of close-ups of the unique blocks, Parks figured she would never hear from the Expo Officials again.

“There was no way I thought it would be accepted,” she confessed. “I have been to that quilt expo before and some of the pieces that are in the contest are beautiful works of art that look as if they took a lifetime to complete. My quilt is nowhere in that category.”

Needless to say, when the acceptance letter arrived, Parks was thrilled, but speechless, and weeks later, is still in disbelief.

“It finally began to sink in and I just thought it was astounding,” she said, softly. “I was beside myself.”

It is difficult to estimate the length of time Parks spent working on the quilt due to the five months she spends in her accounting business, but she guessed that the project consumed seven months of part time work on it.

“The reason I say part-time work is because I often have several projects going at once,” she said.

Indeed. A wooden quilt ladder displayed at least five complex quilt patterns that were in progress. Most of those projects were intricate paper piecing or appliqué designs. Her sewing room is lined with stacks of quilting fabric and her husband Bob was quick to bring out a few of his favorite quilts.

“I am so proud of what she does,” he bragged, while unfolding a blue and yellow quilt sampler. “This is my favorite, I love the colors and the designs—she does such a great job.”

Most of her ideas come from photos or designs that she adapts and makes her own, and some are entirely of her own imagination. She credits the staff at Racine’s Sew N Save store for helping her learn to love the art of quilting.

“They have amazing fabrics and are so helpful to me,” she said. “I have taken several classes there and they have taught me how to appliqué and how to piece—without their help, I wouldn’t be doing this type of quilting.”

Additionally, Parks is an avid cross-stitch artist; she has nearly completed a multi-hued complicated design that will be framed and presented to her mother.

“I am excited for her to see this because I think it turned out pretty well,” she said.

Parks encourages anyone interested in quilting to attend the Expo. The event includes hundreds of quilts on exhibit, educational workshops, a 75,000 square foot vender mall with quilting supplies, gifts, notions, and innovative equipment, and stage presentations that provide practical advice, tips and techniques.

“Nancy Zieman (Public Television’s Sewing With Nancy®) will be there,” she said. “I have seen her in person before and she does a great job in her presentations and classes.”

Unassuming about her chances to win, Parks feels like a winner already, by her acceptance into the contest.

“It is such a great honor to be in this show,” she said. “It is all very exciting and fun.”

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