Local quilter Rachel Phipps wins first place award at Smoky Mountain Quilt Show

Published 3:24 pm Thursday, July 6, 2023

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An Elizabethton woman, Rachel Phipps, won a first-place award at the 42nd Quilt Show & Competition, hosted by the Smoky Mountain Quilters of Tennessee in June at the Knoxville Expo Center in Knoxville. The quilt show featured more than 200 stunning quilts and approximately $6,000 in awards.
Phipps received the award for her quilt “Inner Peace” in the Modern Quilt category.
This is not the first time that Phipps has won on her quilts at the Smoky Mountain Quilter’s show. In 2019 she won a second place prize for her quilt “Riding Thru the Garden” and third place in the Large Pieced category for her quilt “Log Cabin Lilies.”
Phipps uses a long-arm sewing machine to quilt her creations. 2019 was the first year that Phipps had entered her qullts in the Smoky Mountain Quilters of Tennessee Show.
Sometimes good friends, fellowship, and fun are held together with a single stitch, and that has proven true for Phipps, who never made her first quilt until 2010, sometime after retiring from the Sycamore Shoals Hospital accounts payable department.
Phipps’s first quilt was a Christmas quilt. “I always liked quilts, but never was good at hand quilting. I enjoyed piecing them, but my sister and I hired a friend in North Carolina to quilt them. The friend then moved to Ohio, so that’s how I came to quilt,” she shared in an earlier conversation.
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 quillting, 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. Phipps said she likes the focus that it requires to work on a project. “When you’re focused on that, you aren’t focused on other stuff.” she shared.
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 quipped. Phipps does little finger quilting. A few years ago she and her sister, Angelee White, purchased a long-arm sewing machine which they use to do their quilting.
However, she 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.
Phipps and her sister are subscribers to several magazines, which offer ideas for quilt designs. They also get some ideas from Pinterest and often buy pattern books. They both enjoy quilts and do wall hangings as well. The two sisters have done Christmas quilts, patriotic quilts, spring and fall quilts, etc. Phipps said she is always looking for new ideas and new challenges.
The Smoky Mountain Quilt Show is just one of many shows that Phipps has participated in with quilt entries. She has entered her quilts in shows at Asheville, N.C., Rogersville and in Virginia and Kentucky.
Her quilting has provided her with the opportunity to meet many new friends. “Quilters put so much more than thread and fabric into quilts. So much love, so many memories, so much of our lives are stitched into every quilt,” she said.
Phipps noted that that she usually spends three to four months on a quilt, but for her it is a labor of love.
The Smoky Mountain Quilters of Tennessee typically meet on the first Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the Messiah Lutheran Church, intersection of Papermill Drive and Kingston Pike in Knoxville. The guild’s approximately 100 members range from novice to master quilters in diverse quilt styles, including traditional and art quilts, complex and minimalist modern designs, miniatures and bed-sized, and hand- or machine-stitched.

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