Archive for the ‘Quilts in the Carolinas’ Category

The Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail in Upstate SC Installs 50th Quilt Block

Saturday, July 9th, 2011


Fifty and counting – that’s the number of quilt blocks that now comprise the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail. This latest is titled “Kimono” and was originally designed by Ellen Kochansky, founder of the Rensing Center in Pickens, SC. A well known textile artist, designer and quilter, Kochansky’s craft is grounded in the traditional style. However, her work stretches beyond to include experimental fibers and mixed-media in response to community-based and site-specific commissions.


The “Kimono” quilt block has been mounted on the non-profit Rensing Center, named for Kochansky’s mother, Evelyn Rensing Kochansky. She and her husband Nicholas moved from Connecticut to Pickens in 1981. From 1981 to 1992, the building served as the studio for their daughter and a remarkable team who made a line of original, limited-edition bed quilts and a series of art quilts. The production line consisted of 12 to 15 seasonal styles, in two or three colors. They were sold primarily through the national competitive craft shows such as those sponsored by the American Craft Council. Over 2,000 quilts were produced here. The Rensing Center is located at 1165 Mile Creek Road in Pickens.

Inspiration for “Kimono” came from two sources. First, the tradition of resourcefulness and frugality typical of the quilts of the Depression years. They were often made of men’s suits, after the dark wool had become shiny from wear, and perhaps, Dad had lost his job. The fabric could be turned to the wrong side and used again to keep the family warm. Joyful jolts of color called ‘Zingers’ were added to keep the family spirits up and to enliven the quilt. This quilt was designed after Kochansky had spent a sick Christmas with friends and they comforted her with a family quilt of this vintage.

The second inspiration came from Kochansky’s training at Syracuse under Charles Dibble, a Japanese scholar. She was struck by the nature of  Japanese weaving tradition using a diagonal structure in which a standard fabric width of about 14 inches is used to create a kimono for any size person. In many weave-based traditions, the labor and resource intensity of the textile itself was revered, allowing many kimonos to be rebuilt time and again for new owners. She came across the Korean example of a wrapping cloth, a kind of square quilt with ribbons sewn to each corner that was used as a back pack. The design was often made from the specific diagonal wedges of fabric that were cut from the sleeve of the kimono.

Kochansky’s designs reflect the philosophy behind the Rensing Center itself – it serves as a connecting model between creative thinking and craftsmanship. As Kochansky explains, “Make use of what you have – This is what will solve the environmental, economic and creative problems of today. Nothing goes to waste! Finding what is scorned and discarded  in our less conscious society, and honoring it with a purpose that is both beautiful and useful…THERE is art!”

This 50th quilt on the driving trail is a turning point for the UHQT. It is only a year and a half since the first quilt block was hung in Oconee County. The trail has recently expanded into Pickens and Anderson counties with plans to continue expansion down the South Carolina Heritage Corridor to Charleston.

For more information visit (

Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail in South Carolina Reaches 44 Stops

Thursday, May 19th, 2011


For the last year and a half, I’ve been bringing you news about South Carolina’s only component of the National Quilt Trail – the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail, which started out as the Oconee Heritage Quilt Trail, but had grown to cover a much larger area of the Upsptate – now with 44 individual stops.

I’ve had a couple of articles waiting in the wings for photos of the quilt blocks or squares, but I recently checked the group’s website and found that everything I was waiting to tell you can be found there.

The Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail’s new website, found at ( was made possible in part by a grant from the Mountain Lakes R810guiltfest1egion of the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor.


On the site you can read about the groups history in South Carolina and about the origins of the National Quilt Trail. There is also images of all 44 quilts and descriptions of the quilt patterns and their history. There is also an interactive Google map showing all the locations. You can even print out maps of locations from the website, so you can hit the road and do a scavenger hunt for the quilt blocks.

The locations are now spread throughout Anderson, Oconee, and Pickens counties – from the SC Welcome Center on I-85 in Fair Play, where travelers enter into SC from Georgia – to new locations in Central, Pendleton, Salem, Long Creek, Liberty, and Tamassee. Everyone is jumping on the quilt trail bandwagon – in at least one corner of the Upstate.

One thing I can’t figure out is what’s up with the rest of SC? There are a lot of quilt organizations and groups all over South Carolina, but I haven’t heard a peep out of anyone else about starting a quilt trail in their area of the state.

The Lake and Mountain Quilt Guild’s Biennial Festival of Quilts Takes Place in Seneca, SC – Sept. 17 & 18, 2010

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Our first mention of quilts on this blog was made in Feb. 2010, when we brought you news about the Oconee Heritage Quilt Trail being developed in Oconee County, SC. Since that time the Quilt Trail has expanded to Anderson and Pickens counties and has been renamed the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail. We also talked about how developed these quilt trails are in Western North Carolina. You can read that entry at this link.


Now, I’m bringing you news about a Festival of Quilts and the official kickoff of the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail.

The biennial Festival of Quilts will be held on Sept. 17 & 18, 2010, at the Shaver Center, located at 698 West South 4th Street in Seneca, SC. The show will be open on Friday from 10am until 6pm and on Saturday from 10am until 4pm. More than 200 quilts, all made by Lake and Mountain Quilt Guild (LMQG) members, will be on display throughout Seneca. Admission is $5, but children 12 and under get in free.

The Festival of Quilts features quilts produced by members in a variety of categories from traditional bed quilts to art quilt wall hangings, wearables and other quilted home decor. Demonstrations, special exhibits reflecting guild projects and challenges, and displays honoring special guild members are an integral part of the show. A donation quilt made by members, a Fat Quarters basket prize (a quilter’s dream) and a charity auction are part of the excitement. Even a Car Quilt is featured – in the past it has been the hit of the show.

The Presentation Quilt – Eat Your Greens

The Festival of Quilts will also highlight two other special quilt related events, the recognition of the Oconee Quilter of the Year, Mrs. Jenny Grobusky, and the official kickoff of the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail.

Jenny Grobusky began quilting in 1993, creating a king-sized bedspread in the Dresden Plate pattern for her husband, George, in honor of their 50th anniversary. It was the first quilt she’d ever made and it launched a whole new career for her of quilting and teaching others to quilt. She had been a seamstress all her life, teaching all aspects of sewing at the Fred P. Hamilton Career Center and elsewhere in the area. As part of the reward process in being named Oconee Quilter of the Year, her quilt pattern was painted and mounted on the barn at her family farm, becoming part of the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail. She was also honored in May 2010 at a reception at the Blue Ridge Arts Council in Seneca.


The Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail will celebrate their grand kick-off in conjunction with the Quilt Show. A sample of painted quilt blocks will be on display during the show and maps of the Quilt Trail will also be available. Several of the sites displaying show quilts also have Quilt Trail blocks mounted on their building. Thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers, the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail (UHQT) was formally established in February 2010 with the mounting of four quilt blocks on buildings. Since then, local interest in the Quilt Trail has increased rapidly, and new painted panels (almost 30) are popping up throughout Anderson, Oconee and Pickens counties. The establishment of the Upstate Quilt Trail adds South Carolina to the National Quilt Trail, established in 2001.


The LMQG and its members preserve the traditions, culture and history of quilting in Oconee, Anderson and Pickens Counties. They promote fellowship among quilters; contribute to the knowledge and appreciation of fine quilts; sponsor and support quilting activities, and contribute to the growth of knowledge of quilting techniques, textiles, patterns and quilt makers through educational meetings and travel. More importantly, they create Comfort Quilts for children and adults at Oconee Medical Center, Hospice of the Foothills and local nursing homes. When a non-local need arises, such as a Ronald McDonald House, or a catastrophe such as Hurricane Katrina, LMQG members rise to the challenge to provide the comfort of a soft, warm quilt to make the recipient’s days a little brighter.

For more information on the festival, log onto (