How Houstonia Learned Not to Make Blanket Statements

In which we apologize for accidentally insulting 60,000 quilting aficionados.

By Morgan Kinney January 28, 2019 Published in the February 2019 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Our Houston quilt, not blanket.

Image: Amy Kinkead

Last November, after a weekend at Houston’s 44th International Quilt Festival, Linda Gebhardt and 15 friends found themselves killing time at IAH on their way back to Saratoga Springs, New York, when one quilter picked up an issue of this humble magazine. They immediately tore out page 96—featuring a tongue-in-cheek homage to the festival headlined “Quilting Time,” with an illustration of our ideal Houston-themed quilt—and showed it to the rest of the soon-to-be outraged group.

We’d written that the festival summoned quilters “to admire the artful bedspreads on display, submit their own blankets, and compete for thousands in cash prizes.” That characterization so shocked Gebhardt and her comrades that she took to email to give Houstonia a piece of her mind.

“You have insulted approximately 60,000 people,” she wrote, referencing the festival’s city-sized legion of quilting aficionados. Her missive went on to question our credentials before accusing us of employing children as writers. We replied that there was no malice intended (nor illegal labor practices employed). Gebhardt understood but maintained that we’d “missed the mark on this one.” Which … ouch.

We called Gebhardt and begged for absolution. She extended an olive branch, but not before emphasizing that quilts are not, as we so gauchely put it, blankets or bedspreads to be draped over the side of a couch.

Rather, she explained that each quilt involves thousands of painstaking stitches. They are beautiful artworks whose creators “are expressing themselves using fabric and other textiles as their medium.” An infectious disease researcher by profession, Gebhardt said she relishes the “quilt math” involved in the precision and geometry of her craft—as do the some-125 members of her Quilt North guild back in upstate New York, whose members range in age from 10 to 87. “It’s a lot more artistic than cutting out squares and sewing them together to make a blanket,” she emphasized. “It takes a lot of skill!”

We agreed, vowing to investigate in person at next year’s festival, which, in spite of Houstonia’s faux pas, Gebhardt might attend again. She met a vendor who invited her to visit a local Houston llama ranch, where the hair is spun into yarn, and there’s no way she’d miss out on that because of a silly magazine article. “I will be calling on you for recommendations on what to see and do,” she warned ominously, the threat of yet another stern email lingering in the air.

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