Quilting is a labor of love for Rachel Phipps

Published 9:26 am Monday, September 2, 2019

Rachel Phipps is pictured with her quilt Log Cabin Lilies, which took third place in the Large Pieced Category at the Smoky Mountain Quilters of Tennessee Show. Rachel uses a long-arm sewing machine to quilt her creations.

Rachel Phipps took home an honorable mention for her “Ruffled Roses” Quilt in the large pieced category.

Sometimes, good friends, fellowship and fun are held together with a single stitch. That has proven true for Rachel Phipps, local quilter, whose handiwork was on display recently at the Smoky Mountain Quilters of Tennessee Show in Knoxville.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

It was the first time that Phipps had entered her quilts in the show. Her quilts won a second and third place ribbon in addition to honorable mention.

“My first quilt was a Christmas quilt. I always liked quilts, but was never good at hand quilting. I enjoyed piecing them, but my sister and I hired a friend in North Carolina to quilt them. Our friend then moved to Ohio, so that’s how I came to quilt,” she said.

Since the days of the early American settlers, quilt making has been a pastime that helped bring warmth and comfort to others in times of need, and to raise funds for causes ranging from abolition to countless other community benefits.

The art of quilting is a journey of color, imagination and inspiration, and has long played a significant role in America’s culture.

When it comes to the actual process of quilting, the task is not easy, especially if you intend to do it with the precision Phipps uses. The time and effort she puts in usually produces a great end product, but the journey has also become an important part of the hobby. Over time, Phipps has come to view her quilting not only as a hobby, but a labor of love.

“I like the focus that it requires to work on a project,” Phipps said. “When you’re focused on that, you aren’t focused on other stuff.”

For Phipps, a quilt really is a journey which begins with choosing a pattern, then selecting the material, cutting the pieces, sewing them together, and finally quilting it. “The part I like least is sewing the binding on the quilt,” she shared.

Phipps does little finger quilting. A few years ago she and her sister, Angelee White of Gray, purchased a long-arm sewing machine, which they use to do their quilting.

Phipps and her sister are subscribers to at least four magazines, which offer ideas for quilt designs. “We also get some ideas from Pinterest, and often buy pattern books. Both my sister and I like quilts and we enjoy doing wall hangings as well. We’ve done Christmas quilts, patriotic quilts, spring and fall quilts, etc. I’m always on the look for new ideas and new challenges,” she said.

Phipps remembers when her mother and grandmother labored over wooden frames in the dim light of an oil lamp making quilts. Their fingers slipped needles through scraps of old material — nothing could be wasted — with expertise. It was a stitch here, a loop there, repeated for hours until the final tug of thread.

“Now, it’s much different. Rarely is old material used for a quilt. New material is used. I have a room that is full of material, and I’m always on the look for new materials to use in a quilt. My husband often tells my son when I come home with new purchases of material, ‘there goes your inheritance.’ But, I am really creating an inheritance for him — quilts,” Phipps shared with a laugh.

The Smoky Mountain Quilt Show is just one of many shows that Phipps has participated in with quilt entries. In just a few days, she will enter her quilts in an Asheville show, and later in Rogersville. She has also entered her quilts in shows in Virginia and Kentucky.

“Quilters put so much more than fabric and thread into quilts. So much love, so many memories, so much of our lives are stitched into every quilit.”
—Rachel Phipps

“I have many quilting friends that I have met at quilt shows and fabric stores. That’s one of the added benefits of making quilts — the people you meet,” she said. “Also, as I visit the shows and look at the many quilts on display, I am in awe at the beauty of each one. Quilters put so much more than fabric and thread into quilts. So much love, so many memories, so much of our lives are stitched into every quilt. Because of this, every quilt tells a story. It might be short and sweet, or it might reach all the way back in history,” Phipps shared.

At the Smoky Mountain Quilt Show Phipps received a second place prize for her quilt named “Riding Thru the Garden” in the Large Applique and/or Mixed Techniques; a third place prize for Log Cabin Lilies in the Large Pieced Quilt Category; and an honorable mention for Ruffled Roses in the Large Pieced Team Category.

The show featured more than 200 quilts and approximately $6,000 in awards.

Phipps noted that she usually spends three to four months on a quilt. “In addition to the time, quilts are expensive to make. Material is not cheap. Some of it costs $10 and $12 a yard,” she said.

“I truly enjoy making quilts. For me, it is a labor of love. It’s amazing that you can take a few pieces of fabric and turn it into a beautiful creation. I am very blessed,” Phipps said.