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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Busy Little "Quilting Bees"

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Sunday, October 02, 2005

from left, Erika Kotch, 9, Meredith Brown, 11, and Rose Kelleher, 10, examine fabric at Tala's Quilt Shop in North Adams.
North Adams- For some, it’s a passion.

Quilting has become wildly popular across the country during recent years; quilt shows draw hundreds and even thousands of people to exhibit sites and shops dedicated to quilting have popped up in the Northern Berkshires. Internet web sites offering quilt patterns, supplies, and even quilt chat rooms and message boards offer a wealth of resources to veteran quilters.

Prizes and accolades may be as exciting as completion of a first-ever quilt and a trio of Franklin County girls aged 9 – 11 years old had a taste of sweet success over the summer.

Erika Kotch, 9, of Shelburne Falls, Meredith Brown, 11, of Charlemont, and Rose Kelleher, 10, of Greenfield, each completed their first traditional quilts while taking classes at Tala’s Quilt Shop at the Western Heritage Gateway State Park.

The girls, accompanied by their mothers, traveled to the shop on Oct. 1 to retrieve their quilts and select material for new projects.


Meredith Brown shows off her first-ever quilt.
Shop owner Tala Neathawk said that she believes the girls showed great skill and talent while creating the quilts, and noted that they learned and worked with surprising speed.

The trio selected their patterns and materials and completed their work in about six hours over two classes, said Neathawk.

“I was very impressed,” Neathawk said. “They chose beautiful colors and made beautiful quilts.”
Diane Morrissey instructed the girls.
“She was so fantastic with the girls,” Neathawk said. “She went above and beyond.”

Rose and Erika had some experience with making rag quilts, which are less complicated to assemble than a standard quilt. Rose began making rag quilts when school ended in June, by summer’s end two of her rag quilts had captured two first-place ribbons and a “Best in Show” at the Franklin County Fair.

Erika said that she began making rag quilts at age 7. She competed during a quilt show at the Hampshire County Fair and her work captured a first-place blue ribbon.

Meredith had no previous quilting experience when she started classes at Tala’s. Her quilt, which hosts eye-catching shades of blue, white and shots of bright yellow, delivers a stained-glass effect.

Rae Kotch, Erika’s mother, is a ringleader of fun, said Meredith, and it was she who suggested the quilt project.

Erika Kotch and her first traditional quilt.


“Rae has told us about a lot of fun things, like cheerleading, and she told us about quilting,” said Meredith. “I thought it would be fun, and it was.”

Meredith said that she plans to keep her quilt. Erika has other plans for her creation, she said.

“I’m giving my quilt to my grandmother for her birthday,” Erika said. “I made rag quilts for all my uncles and [other family members], and [my grandmother] felt really bad. So I wanted to make something really different and special for her, and I made my first ‘grown-up’ quilt for her.”

Erika is working on a quilt for her father that represents his interest in basketball, skiing, and soccer, she said.

Rose will keep the pink, lavendar, and green quilt dotted with roses that she made at Tala’s but is working on a second quilt to give to her grandmother as a holiday gift.

“It’s just having a lot of fun,” Rose said of quilting. “I like picking the colors.”


Rose Kelleher learned to make rag quilts and traditional quilts this summer.
All three girls said that they enjoyed using sewing machines as well.
Meredith’s mother Kathy Brown and Rose’s mother Laura Kelleher do not quilt – yet.

“We’re going to learn from the girls,” said Kelleher.

“I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m going to try,” said Brown.

Rae Kotch has been quilting for about two years and has crafted about seven quilts, she said.

Children seem to pick up quilting skills more quickly than their adult counterparts, and also have less difficulty selecting colors and patterns, Neathawk said. The younger quilters have less angst about the finished product, she added.

“These girls just knew what they wanted and picked everything out right away,” she said. “I remember teaching a little girl in one class and she was just about done with her quilt while the adults were still piecing theirs.”

Erika said that while other quilt shops may be situated closer to her home, she has developed a preference for Neathawk’s shop because of the fabric selection.

“They have the best, the biggest, and the most,” she said.

For information about quilting classes at Tala's Quilt Shop, call 413-664-8200.

Susan Bush may be reached at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.
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