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Love of quilts, history connects couple

By LAUREL BLACK lblack@paducahsun.com

Anyone who has tried it knows that even with the benefits of electric light and a stable work surface, sewing can be a challenge.

Elizabeth Andrew had neither of these when she worked on her 10-by-10-foot quilt aboard a steamboat in the 1840s. So the end result, known as the Captain James Andrew Quilt, was truly a labor of love.

"A lot of work went into this," said Pat Christ, who collects antique quilts with her husband, Arlan, at their home in Pennsylvania. Their sizeable collection includes the Captain James Andrew Quilt, which Elizabeth sewed for her husband as a wedding gift in 1849. "All I can say is she loved her husband."

The couple's roundabout path to uncovering the history of the quilt began with a name on the back. It was so subtle that the two noticed it only as they were getting the quilt appraised, but it led the couple on a genealogical journey.

"He almost feels like family to us," Christ said of Capt. James Andrew. "We did quite a bit of research on him."

But Pat Christ isn't eager to tell the whole story just yet, as it's the subject of one of her lectures -- titled "Appliqué Quilts: As American as Apple Pie" -- at this year's American Quilter's Society QuiltWeek. That lecture is scheduled for 2-3 p.m. Friday in the Eisenhower Room.

Lecture attendees will have the chance to see the red-and-green Captain James Andrew Quilt; a different quilt from the same era will be on display at the AQS exhibit.

Historic interests have always motivated the couple's 15-year quilt collecting career, which is currently focused on "bright and cheery" Pennsylvania quilts. The Christs, who have been married for 48 years, share a passion for collecting. Their venture into the quilt world began with an interest in Civil War-era artifacts, some of which were quilts.

"(Arlan) had been picking up things that he thought would interest me," Pat Christ recalled, "and we found this older quilt. We loved the colors. We loved the design, and from that point on, we started searching for older quilts," she said.

She continued: "As far as antique quilts, he takes the lead. We're a team with this particular activity."

That, she said, with a laugh, makes her the envy of women in some sewing circles.

"The gals are very envious. They say they couldn't get their husbands into a quilt shop, let alone to talk about quilts," she said.

In addition to collecting, Pat Christ also sews quilts and creates quilt block patterns. At the time of her interview, she was developing a piece for the exhibit. Christ will present a block design she's been working on. It's called the Circle of Spring and is based on an antique quilt block the couple owns.

"It gives me peace of mind," she said. "If I have a busy day at work and I come home, I do a lot of handwork. It's calming."

Another lecture and workshop, "Holiday Magic with Circles, Curves, and Bias Stems" is slated for 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday in the Jefferson Room.

Although he can talk fabric and design all day, Pat Christ said her husband hasn't quite caught the sewing bug.

"He's tried his hand," Pat said of Arlan, and "he did very well."

But it appears that, much like the Andrews couple, the wife is the most likely to be found with a sewing needle in her hand -- for now.

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