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30th annual Asheville Quilt Show this weekend

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9/26/2012 - 30th annual Asheville Quilt Show this weekend
by Barbara Blake - Asheville Citizen Times

 ASHEVILLE -- In case you thought quilting was an old-fashioned and utilitarian handicraft designed to keep humble country folk warm in their rustic beds, consider this:

 In addition to completing a lovely quilt that was started by her great-grandmother in the late 1800s, quilting guru Georgia Bonesteel, of Flat Rock, has also created a wall hanging that is in fact a QR code that will take you to her website when it's zapped by a smart phone or iPad.

So much for antiquated stitchery.

Bonesteel's generations-spanning offerings will join nearly 300 others at the Asheville Quilt Guild's 30th annual Asheville Quilt Show, happening Friday-Sunday in the Expo Center at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center.

The show, with the theme "Color your life ... with quilts," is an eagerly awaited annual adventure for quilters as well as art lovers, who can peruse the maze of aisles to gape in awe at craftsmanship and creativity of epic proportions.

Quilters from 12 states will display works of all shapes, sizes and designs -- although only one doubles as a digital electronic code. There will be more than 20 vendors, ongoing demonstrations, a silent auction and gift shop, and a special presentation by certified quilt appraiser Connie Brown at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

Katie Winchell, co-chair of the show with her husband, Roger, said the quilt show has gotten "bigger and better" in the 30 years since its debut with 35 quilts hung in a building in an alley off Lexington Avenue.

"We have 100 more quilts this year than last year -- we're not sure what to make of it," Winchell said.

"Our show is actually considered to be sort of a test show -- if it does well here, they'll take their quilts to the big national shows. And that makes us feel wonderful -- like our show is something not to be missed."

The show has outgrown a number of homes over the years, from that alley off Lexington to the old Ivey's and J.C. Penney buildings downtown, the Mayflower Building off College Street, the Carolina Day School gym and the N.C. Arboretum before finally settling at the Ag Center last year.

Barbara Swinea, who has been involved in every show since its inception, said the number of quilters has increased vastly over three decades. "The quilting industry worldwide is a multimillion-dollar industry; fabric stores are thriving, sewing machines are being sold, fabric is being produced all over the world -- it's huge," she said.

"There are still many old-fashioned, traditional quilts being made, but quilting has also become more of an art form," Swinea said.

Bonesteel's quilts are a prime example. As the host of UNC-TV's "Lap Quilting With Georgia Bonesteel" for 33 years, she's a master at traditional quilting.

But she's also got a penchant for contemporary whimsy -- thus the QR code wall hanging that will be a gift for her son, filmmaker Paul Bonesteel, with whom she made the 2005 documentary "The Great American Quilt Revival."

"When I began to see these bar-code type squares in magazines and seemingly everywhere, I identified them as patchwork," Bonesteel said. "My wonder was, could I re-create them in fabric, and would they read with an iPad or iPhone?"

She spent days making her first one, with her own website as the target. Finally, she clicked on her iPad, and nothing happened.

"A quilter in the class I was teaching studied my original on paper and noted two rows were wrong," she said. "It took another day to rip out and make it right, and when I clicked with the iPad it took me promptly to my website, proving that it does work -- yeah!"

And then there is "Lottie's Quilt," which began with the quilt top she inherited from her great grandmother, Lottie Sayler, and ended when Bonesteel completed it 115 years later.

"We respect and learn from the past, as in Lottie's quilt, but we love to find new patchwork challenges and ideas, as in the QR reader," she said.

Bonesteel carried Lottie's quilt around for three years, "and I know many of my friends will declare, 'Finally, she got it done!'" Bonesteel said. "I found that it was an emotional process, taking me back to the many stories my mother told about her grandmother."

Among them are tales of Lottie being the town seamstress and wedding-dress-maker, and the first woman in her county to own and drive a car; before that, she delivered her eggs on a horse with the milk hanging on the saddlebags. "When she got home, she had butter," Bonesteel said.

"I kept a journal the whole time I worked on the quilt, and this diary will go with the quilt to our first great-grandchild," she said. "I think the fact that a quilt top can span the generations is a very special thing."

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