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Quilting project highlights women’s movement in Porter County

Morgan Township resident Carolyn Lelek makes quilt square honor her daughters Sunday Porter County Museum for community quilting project. The

Morgan Township resident Carolyn Lelek makes a quilt square in honor of her daughters Sunday at the Porter County Museum for a community quilting project. The quilt will go on display in March for an exhibit on the history of the women’s movement in the county. | Sun-Times Media

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The Porter County Museum of History is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and is located at 153 Franklin St., Valparaiso. For information, call 465-3595, or go to www.portercountymuseum.org.

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Updated: December 12, 2013 6:32AM



VALPARAISO — Carolyn Lelek made a quilt square in honor of her three daughters.

She used brightly colored strips of fabric and wrote their names with symbols for the things they love — music, soccer and swimming.

Lelek’s square will join others, also made by area residents and honoring or memorializing the women who’ve touched their lives. The effort started Sunday at the Porter County Museum of History, where the quilt will go on permanent display in March, in time for Women’s History Month, for an exhibit on the story of the women’s movement in the county titled “Making Her Place.”

“This is a traditional female or feminine art/craft, so it’s really cool that we’re using a traditional technique to honor local women,” Lelek, of Morgan Township, said, adding she has a quilt signed by her great-great-grandmother. “It’s cool to see these things and know they’re still very perishable but strong, like we are.”

The museum plans on having another quilting workshop, though it hasn’t been scheduled, and in the meantime, visitors are invited to come in and make their own squares leading up to the opening of the exhibit, said Emily Royer, an AmeriCorps member working at the museum.

The String-A-Long Quilt Guild, which cleans and refolds the museum’s quilts each year, is guiding the effort. Sunday, that included leading beginners through the basics of sewing their squares on vintage 1940s and 1950s Singer sewing machines. The guild also will take responsibility for assembling the quilt.

Around six members were on hand, helping budding quilters select and cut their fabric strips, sew them, then iron them flat.

Quilting and the exhibit’s theme go hand in hand.

“Women’s work is seen as so utilitarian, but it also tells stories about women,” said Joanne Urschel, chair of the museum’s board of trustees. “It’s such a unique metaphor about many strands coming together, and that’s how woman work — they traditionally work in groups, and come up with products that can be utilitarian.”

The rest of the exhibit, said Megan Telligman, also an AmeriCorps member with the museum, will focus on the history of women in the county, including their stories on the home front during the two World Wars, and their role in the suffragist movement.

Katie Seibel came into the museum with her 6-month-old son Ethan in a sling and her mom, Chris Hough, by her side.

Seibel said she and her mom, who both live in Valparaiso, like to quilt and like history, so the afternoon’s activity was a good fit. Seibel planned on a quilt square honoring her mother and her grandmother; Hough wasn’t sure whom her square would be for.

“I think it’s an excellent idea,” Seibel said, “because it gets people involved in something that’s going to be on display.”



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