Thursday, April 25, 2002

Quilter repeats '96 Paducah win

The Associated Press

        PADUCAH, Ky. — As Betty Ekern Suiter took her seat beside her award-winning quilt Tuesday night, she joined elite company.

        Ms. Suiter, 61, of Racine, Wis., is only the second woman to win the Best of Show award twice at the American Quilter's Society Quilt Show & Contest held in Paducah. Caryl Bryer Fallert of Oswego, Ill., is the other repeat winner, with three Best of Show awards.

[photo] This year's winning quilt at the major annual show in Paducah was made entirely by hand. Betty Ekern Suiter is a two-time winner of the Best of Show award.
(Associated Press photo)
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        “I'm in very good company,” Ms. Suiter said. “I was shocked.”

        Ms. Suiter won in 1996 for “Aubusson Jarden Partiere,” a quilt based on a small piece of French carpeting. She dedicated that quilt to the memory of her brother, Marty, who drowned two weeks before she finished it.

        Like “Aubusson Jarden Partiere,” her winning quilt, “Welcome to My Dreams,” features a design based on carpet patterns in 35 subtle shades of lavender, mauve and gray set against a white background. The fabric was hand-dyed, and since the flowers are so small, she used four-inch embroidery scissors.

        “When I'm working on a quilt, it has to be in soft colors,” she said. “If I'm working with colors I don't like, it's like I'm listening to music that's too loud.”

        Her quilt was stitched entirely by hand, a process that consumed her life each day for eight hours for two years.

        Ms. Suiter also designed the quilt and says she drew upon her seven years as a draftsman. Her design was sketched on paper.

        Ms. Suiter, who taught herself quilting in the late 1970s, was named one of 30 Distinguished Quilt Artists in the World and had a quilt selected to the “100 Best American Quilts of the Century” in between her Best of Show wins.

        “I have never had a quilt refused for a show,” she said. “I've had a quilt in the show every year that I've been here.”

        The Best of Show award is $18,000 if the quilter elects to give the quilt to the Museum of the American Quilter's Society. Ms. Suiter indicated she would keep her quilt.

        The annual quilt show and contest began 18 years ago with quilters traveling from all over the world to attend. The show — which ends Saturday — is being held at the Paducah Expo Center.

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