Michigan Quilt Project
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Kitty Clark Cole Quilt Collection [click here to see samples]

In 1991 Kitty Clark Cole took her first quiltmaking class, became immediately hooked, and started buying lots of fabric. By the mid-1990s, her interest had become so developed that, from December 1993 - December 1995, she owned and managed Village Patchwork, a quilt shop in Plymouth, Michigan. She also taught quilting classes for children and photo transfer-t-shirt quilt classes. Now, in addition to enjoying replicating antique quilts with reproduction fabrics, Kitty lectures on quilt history and quilt care.

Kitty's first visit to the MSU Museum was to view an exhibit of the Clarke family quilt collection and to meet Kurt Dewhurst, the museum's director, and Marsha MacDowell, the curator of folk art. Kitty recalls, "Once I walked in the door, [saw the wonderful collection and] met Kurt and Marsha, well...the rest is history as they say. I guess we bonded." An active member of the Greater Ann Arbor Quilt Guild, she has served as guild president and chair of the Education and Preservation Committee and in those capacities was instrumental in the guild's support of the MSU Museum's quilt preservation activities. Currently she is a member of the board for The Alliance for American Quilts, a member of the MSU Museum's Development Council, and a leader in the formation of the Great Lakes Quilt Center.

Kitty purchased the first quilt for her collection in January 1991. It was an appliquéd central medallion pieced by Shirley Shenk of Goshen, Indiana and quilted by Amish women from Goshen. She has since built a collection of outstanding quilts which reflect both her interests and the heritage of her family. Kitty is especially fond of a bright golden-colored fabric known as "Cheddar" (because of its similarity to the color of Cheddar cheese and sometimes known as chrome orange or antimony). "Cheddar" was the most prominent color used in one of the quilts Kitty inherited from her great-grandmother Mary Jane "Bird" Jamison Clark and she has collected several quilts containing this fabric.

Many of Kitty's family members have served in the military and Kitty feels that collecting quilts with patriotic motifs is a reflection of her heritage. In addition to collecting quilts with the stars and stripes and ones commemorating famous wars, she has collected numerous quilts featuring a four-block, mirror-imaged eagle motif sometimes referred to as a "Union Quilt."

In 2001, Kitty gave 13 quilts to the Michigan State University Museum and has pledged her support to continue to help build the museum's holdings. The initial grouping of quilts for the museum includes quilts with Cheddar and with patriotic themes as well as mint-condition exemplars of a wide range of fabrics, styles, techniques, and time periods. The majority of the quilts predate the twentieth century and include an outstanding Pineapple Log Cabin, an intricately appliquéd Album quilt, and a Mariner's Compass with extensive trapunto and fine, dense quilting. The donation of these quilts and her generosity in supporting collection care, education, and research have strengthened the collection immeasurably.

-- by Mary Worrall [excerpt from Marsha MacDowell, ed., Great Lakes, Great Quilts. Concord, California: C&T Publishing,


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