Good Life

Good Life | Participants learn quilt block painting during workshop

Using a compass, Glenn Gross sets up a design. He emphasized the importance of getting the math right so the result would be right. There’s very little margin for error.
Using a compass, Glenn Gross sets up a design. He emphasized the importance of getting the math right so the result would be right. There’s very little margin for error.

Marjorie Korman has never painted, at least artistically, but she was sure that by the end of the one-evening, two-day quilt block painting workshop at the Grange Fairgrounds in Centre Hall, she would have completed an 8-by-8-foot block for her barn at her home in Old Fort. She vowed to be working “fast and furious” to turn her blank slate into a design called “Farmer’s Daughter.”

Painting was the easy part.

Korman was one of about 15 people enrolled in the workshop offered during a July 16-18 Pennsylvania Grange event called Family Festival and taught by Barbara and Glenn Gross, of Emlenton.

Barbara Gross serves on the executive committee of the Pennsylvania Grange and successfully encouraged committee members to create the Pennsylvania Grange Heritage Quilt Trail.

Although Barbara Gross told the group “there are no rules,” painting a quilt block requires a great amount of precision, especially in the planning stages.

Anyone creating a quilt block of any size needs to understand the grid system on which designs are placed, and the choices of design can be summed up in a book titled “5,500 Quilt Block Designs” by Maggie Malone.

With a design chosen, the painter then determines the grid, which can run from 3 to 20, that is 3 across and 3 down to 20 across and 20 down. Glenn Gross emphasizes the importance of doing the math first in making a graph of the design on grid paper.

The painter then colors in the graph to decide on a color scheme after which grid lines are drawn on a pre-primed wooden board. Sizes vary from 2-by-2 to 8-by-8.

Korman had decided she was going to paint “Farmer’s Daughter,” and because she had chosen the biggest size, the Grosses had penciled her design onto her boards, which were 4-by-8 and would be joined when hung on her barn. With her colors chosen, Korman then labeled each section of the design and followed up by taping off each section before painting.

Taping is tedious work, and it must be precise just as it would be if you were painting a wall and trim different colors in your house. Cutting the tape correctly is a skill that Barbara Gross says her husband is “real good at.”

He showed Korman how to do tape off a section and then she took over. With the taping done, Korman erased exposed pencil marks. “Tape, erase; tape, erase,” she said as she soldiered on into Thursday night.

Early Friday, Korman applied the first of two coats of red while her mother, Agnes Homan, of Old Fort, watched, and then went on a festival-sponsored tour of Bald Eagle State Park.

After all, it takes three to four hours for the paint to dry so workshop participants drifted in and out and attended other events that were part of the Grange Family Festival or checked out the dog and horse shows out by Gate 4.

Korman chose the “Farmer’s Daughter” design because she is one and her mother is one. In fact, Agnes Homan, 91, remembers quilting with her grandmother, Nancy Hoy, of Jacksonville, and Korman, 68, remembers quilting with her grandmother, Talitha Delaney, of Centre Hall, when Korman was about 10. Korman has worked with her older daughter to make quilts for her daughter’s son and daughter. Quilting is usually the antecedent to quilt block painting.

With two coats of red dry, Korman taped out the next color section (green) and painted it. Like the others in the workshop, she came and went, painted and waited. She also did the sections of white.

If Friday had been the perfect day for painting, with temperatures in the 70s and, more important, low humidity, Saturday was dog day.

Korman had two shades of blue to apply but massive rainstorms overnight signaled a hot and humid day and the paint dried slowly. Korman and others set up fans to help their blocks dry.

Around 5 p.m. Penn State’s weather service tweeted that the temperature in State College felt like 93 and the humidity was 73.

During the drying time, Korman started designing a block quilt for the Progress Grange in Centre Hall, which is not just a sign of loyalty, but also evidence of how addictive block painting can become. Several people in the workshop were attending for the third or fourth time.

Barbara Gross informed everyone that as part of the talent show that evening, workshop participants would be part of a block parade. By the time dinner ended, the blocks were ready and the parade came off without a hitch.

And Tuesday night, a five-man crew put the “Farmer’s Daughter” on the Korman barn in about an hour.

Also posted was a sign from Barbara Gross announcing that the Korman barn was now part of the Pennsylvania Grange Heritage Quilt Trail. That’s fast and furious.

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