SALEM — The Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail, which covers Oconee, Pickens and Anderson counties, has unveiled the Blue Heron quilt block, created by their 2015 Quilter of the Year, Penny Little of Salem.
The Quilter of the Year award was created to honor quilters who not only are talented artists, but also give back to their communities in very meaningful ways.
Little is a member of the Lake and Mountain Quilters’ Guild making charity quilts for donation through the Guild programs and helping with a variety of Guild activities and programs. She leads the Hi-Fiber Art Quilters. She donates her time and expertise to the Tamassee DAR School, where she teaches sewing and quilting to aspiring young people on a weekly basis.
She has been active in supporting the Oconee Animal Shelter making pet beds. Little has taught many classes for the OLLI program at Clemson University and done classes and demonstrations of her skills at Blue Ridge Arts Council and Locker Hooking at a Quilters of SC retreat.
Her quilts have won numerous awards in local and regional venues as well as national and international competitions. Her accomplishments in the world of art quilters is impressive.
“African Bride,” has won first place at the 2006 Lake and Mountain Quilters Guild show and was also a semi-finalist at both the International Quilt Association’s Houston show and the American Quilters Society show in Paducah that same year.
In 2012, “Numida I” took third place at the Lake and Mountain Quilters Guild show and was also a semi-finalist at Paducah. “Reflections of Africa” was a semi-finalist at two AQS shows in 2014 as well as taking second place at the Lake and Mountain Quilters Guild show. These are just a few of her many awards in competition. She has also had a number of one-woman exhibits throughout the upstate.
Little was born in Detroit, Mich., attended Eastern Michigan University, is the mother of three sons, two daughters-in-law and six grandchildren. She and her husband lived in several states and Tokyo, Japan. She is a retired travel agent and enjoys the good life living on Lake Keowee near Seneca.
As a young child, she can remember cutting up clothes and hand stitching the fabric into doll clothes or turning cardboard into little houses or villages. Later she made clothes, upholstered furniture, macrame or any craft that was popular. This quilter’s story started in 1994 when Little was introduced to the world of quilt making and found her true passion.
Her first quilt took two years, a block a month for 12 months followed by hand quilting for another 12 months. After joining quilt guilds, reading books, and attending workshops she became an adequate quilter. Although traditional quilts were useful, for Little they were monotonous to make. That all changed when she discovered art quilts. The guideline for designing quilts is “there are no rules.”
A typical quilt of Little’s may have an African theme, be made entirely from scraps, have no straight lines only curves or a focal point or embellishing from beads to seeds. The fabrics are frequently batik or her own hand dyed fabric.
When designing a quilt, ideas and color are the most difficult for her, she relates. Inspiration comes from fabric, workshops, travel, and books. Fabrics depicting African animals have inspired several of her quilts since her first trip to Kenya in 1995, second trip to Tanzania in 2006 and last trip to Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe in 2011.
The quilt was made by using hand dyed fabrics and batiks.
Toni Whitney of Big Fork, Mont., is the designer of the Blue Heron pattern. While pursuing a career as a wildlife painter, Whitney discovered the art of fusible applique in 2005.
The Keowee Fire Commission has unanimously agreed to display the quilt on the station on Highway 130, just north of Route 183. Rich Caudill, chief of the station explained the Keowee Fire Commission was established in 1993 as a fire tax district by the community and covers a service area of 30 square miles. This encompasses the Duke Energy facility, the lake communities of Waterford, Wynward, Waterside, Keowee Harbors and Keowee Key. The current station was built in 2008.
Little resides in the Keowee Key community on Lake Keowee. She has dedicated her award, the Blue Heron quilt square for community display and the fabric quilt that she crafted to honor the artists and quilters of Keowee Key.