Baldwin City, KS: Quilt Capital of Kansas
Sharon Vesecky, owner of Quilters’ Paradise spearheaded the effort to have Baldwin City declared the Quilt Capital of Kansas. This designation will support and enhance the positive impact the quilt industry has on our local economy through tourism. Baldwin City has a rich history of quilting and the quilting industry:
- Baldwin City is the home of the oldest quilt show in the state of Kansas. It is held in conjunction with the annual Maple Leaf Festival. The first show was held in 1973, and there has been a show every year since, now featuring more than 100 quilts each year. The show’s original organizer was Enola Gish along with Helen Booth, Helen Gordon, and Helen Ericson.
- Gish was known as “the quilt lady” and wrote a weekly column about quilting for many years. Her column was published in the Baldwin Ledger until 1995.
- One of the older quilt shops in the nation is located in Baldwin City. Quilters’ Paradise is 30 years old. It opened its doors Jan. 3, 1989 as Cygnet Fashions and Fabrics and changed the store name to Quilters’ Paradise in the 1990’s. The shop is owned and managed by Sharon Vesecky, a fourth generation quilter.
- In addition to the quilt shop, there are several cottage industries in the community organized for the purpose of making quilts for sale. The Internet has been instrumental in the success of those businesses.
- The Maple Leaf Quilt Guild was organized in February 1991. The guild assumed the responsibility of the quilt show when Mrs. Gish retired from the show after directing it for 25 years. Another of the guild’s activities included a Quilt Walk where quilts were exhibited in downtown businesses. The Quilt Walk was replaced by the Art Walk that continues to this day. The September Art Walk features fiber arts and the guild prepares a display for that event.
- The Kaw Valley Quilt Guild originated in Baldwin City and later was relocated to meet in Lawrence.
- Betty Hagerman, author of AMeeting of the Sunbonnet Children(1979), resided in rural Baldwin City and was well-known regionally as a master quilter.
- Quilts are displayed continuously in the City library, City Recreation Department office and Lumberyard Arts Center.
- For several years Baldwin City has maintained a “Sister City” relationship with Riviersonderend, South Africa. One of the activities the two cities have shared is quilting. Our ambassador, Robin Goff of the Light Center, has shared knowledge and resources with our South African sisters. They recently presented Baldwin City with a quilt that reflects their culture. The quilt guild has been charged with the responsibility of creating a reciprocal quilt.