Seventy-eight-year-old Pearl Passmore left Macon County, N.C., for the first time two weeks ago. The occasion? A trip to the nation's capital -- wheelchair and all -- to see her work displayed in the Kennedy Center's North Gallery.
Her work is two squares of the world's largest quilt, measuring 17 1/2-by-20 1/2 feet and made by 92 members of MACO Crafts, Inc. MACO is a nonprofit craftperson's cooperative based in the mountains of western North Carolina. Bused up for the hanging of the enormous quilt were 20 members of MACO, as well as Woodrow Reeves, the mayor of Franklin (the town of 3,500 where MACO is located).
The quilt took three months to complete. It is made up of 116 different squares; 80 square yards of fabric and contains half a million stiches, estimates Betty Gideon, director of marketing and promotion at MACO. Each square is a different traditional mountain pattern, most of which have been passed down through the ages from mother to daughter. Pearl Passmore doesn't remember how long she's been quilting, but says that she learned by watching her mother and grandmother. The patterns all have names -- "Drunkard's Path" and "Jacob's Ladder" -- which often come from the Bible or from American history, says quilter Janet Turner.
The women who produced the world's largest quilt range in age from 14 to the 78-year-old Passmore. After they made their individual squares, the women got together at whay may have been the world's longest quilting bee, exchanging gossip and barely taking time out for meals. When asked "We have to have someone to cook and clean!" (There are some male quilters -- though not with MACO -- such as Michael James and Charles Count.) The large sampler was originally made to promote MACO's 1980 "Spring Fling" craft show.
Friends of the Kennedy Center are responsible for the quilt's month-long exhibition at the Center. After the quilt leaves the Kennedy Center, it will be on display at a number of craft shows and eventually will be permanently exhibited at the MACO shop in North Carolina. The Kennedy Center's North Gallery can be reached by taking the elevators off the Hall of States to the Roof Terrace. The Gallery is between the Performing Arts Library and the Terrace Theater entrance.
In addition to the quilt, works by other members of MACO are on display at the Kennedy Center Gift Shop. These inclued a number of quilted items such as placemats and dolls, as well as woodcarved napkin rings and knitted Christmas decorations.