Whenever I visit Connie at Horse Heaven for a chat—I always notice the beautiful quilts which hang on her walls. The quilted wall hangings brighten up each room with imaginative motifs. Connie Ballentine has been quilting for over thirty years. But of course, quilting is not the only thing Connie does—the care and maintenance of Horse Heaven takes up a large part of each day. So, quilting has become an activity she does in her spare time.
Connie gets her ideas for a quilt first by picking out the fabric and finding a pattern, then the concept for the quilt starts to take shape—all are part of the creative process. She not only makes quilted bedspreads and wall hangings. She often gives her quilts as gifts at baby showers, anniversaries, and other special occasions. Also, she has made quilted handbags, quilted jackets, and quilted wallets.
To learn quilting, Connie took classes in Sayre and Towanda and made a Sampler quilt. In a Sampler Quilt, each block has a different pattern. The one Connie made was entirely hand stitched. She began machine quilting ten years ago, starting out small with crib quilts and moving on to full-sized bedspreads and wall hangings.
Connie made a quilt for her in-laws, Dorothy and James Ballentine, on their 50th wedding anniversary, December 18, 1991. The anniversary quilt has a centerpiece square with two cross-stitched hearts united. Also, she made a square for each of their children, Paul and Johnn—Connie’s late husband.
In addition, Connie has used applique in making quilts. In the wall hanging featuring cats, each cat has been cut out and sewn onto the quilt. Now, Connie is expanding her quilting aids. She purchased a Grace Cutie Tabletop Quilting Frame which fits on a table. The frame holds the fabric and allows free motion in any direction. So, Connie can use her sewing machine for free-form topstitching—making quilt loops, arches, straight lines, and other designs with ease. This will make working on large quilts simpler and less time-consuming.
Connie has exhibited her quilts at the Troy Fair in PA and won several ribbons for her work. She feels that quilting is an art form that produces a unique, decorative, and/or usable “product”. Also, quilting offers a meditative, relaxing activity after a busy day of working with the horses, on the farm.
Lynn and Connie have been friends for a long time. Even though Lynn left the Valley and moved to the Pittsburgh area, she and Connie have stayed friends. They meet at least once a year to visit quilt shows and fabric shops in Lancaster, PA.
They are both avid quilters and Lancaster has become a yearly adventure. Besides visiting local restaurants and talking, they attend quilt shows. Fabric shops are another destination where they hunt for unique fabric designs. In Lancaster, quilting is center stage—offering over thirty fabric shops with unique designs and quilting materials. Besides the great variety of fabric, the prices are reasonable, making the trip not only fun but economical. So, once a year Connie packs her suitcase, climbs in her car, and heads to Lancaster to visit her friend Lynn.
These days, Connie quilts at home and exchanges ideas with Lynn. In the meantime, the Valley has other quilters, who get together. My Brother’s Keeper, a volunteer organization, works on making knitted hats, mittens, scarves, quilted blankets, and sleeping bags for homeless people. Also, The Endless Mountain Quilt Guild is another organization dedicated to quilting. Both organizations meet at the Methodist Church on 118 South Main Street in Athens, PA.
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