Louisiana Bicentennial Quilt
Caption for LABIconst: Dawn Abraham, left, and Daisy Comeaux, seated, work on sewing the parish blocks together.
Caption for LABItop: The finished top, ready for quilting.
Louisiana is celebrating the 200th anniversary of its statehood in 2012, and the birthday is being commemorated by all manner of special events and activities, not the least of which is the construction of an official bicentennial quilt.
Sponsored by Secretary of State, Tom Schedler, the Louisiana State Archives, and Roland Dartez, Executive Director of the Louisiana Police Jury Association, the quilt is entitled Stitch by Stitch, Binding Together 200 Years of Louisiana History.
Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. that has parishes rather than counties as political subdivisions, and each of the state’s 64 parishes is represented with a block in the quilt. The finished 9” x 9” blocks are arranged in columns in order of each parish’s location in the state and each one reflects its parish’s iconic features.
The parish blocks surround a central pictorial medallion representing the Louisiana State Archives building superimposed over an outline shape of the state. A brown pelican and a magnolia, both state symbols, are quilted into the medallion. The colorful blocks and the medallion are all on white grounds and sashed in blue, and the quilt is bordered in gold to indicate the state colors of white, blue, and gold. The 9.5’ wide , 10.5’ long quilt will tour each of the parishes in turn before being permanently housed at the Archives in the state capital of Baton Rouge.
The Project Coordinator for the bicentennial quilt is Dawn Abraham, an Education Specialist with the Louisiana State Archives. Dawn designed the quilt, created the central medallion, and shepherded the project through to completion.
“It was such an honor to work on this quilt for Louisiana and the State Archives,” she says. “What a fantastic format to showcase the state’s history and teach at the same time!”
Although the quilt was her idea, Dawn is quick to point out that she did not work on it alone. In the true spirit of traditional quilting, the bicentennial quilt brought together a large “bee,” if you will, of noted quilters from throughout the state. Each parish selected a talented quilter to design and construct its representative block.
For example, the artist selected to represent Orleans Parish was Denise Taylor, the owner of Mes Amis Quilt Shop in New Orleans. “I couldn’t believe it when I got the call,” Taylor recalls. “I was so excited and honored to make the block for our parish!” Her block features embroidered images of the French Quarter, Mardi Gras, a hurricane, and a fleur-de-lis (the fleur-de-lis is an official symbol of both Louisiana and New Orleans and it has been frequently used in New Orleans as a symbol of the city’s recovery following Hurricane Katrina).
Daisy Comeaux, owner of Cottage Creations and Quilts in St. Gabriel, Louisiana, was Dawn’s right-hand helper. “Daisy was a life-saving force behind this project,” Abraham says. “She was with me every step of the way—sewing, mentoring, connecting me with other quilters, and basically just being the quilt’s guardian angel.”
Comeaux’s experience and enthusiasm for the project equals that of Abraham’s. “I’ve been quilting for 42 years, but having the opportunity to work with a network of quilters all over the state on something that will go down in history has been just amazing,” Comeaux says.
The quilting was done by nationally known longarm quilter, Carol Hilton, and Dawn completed hand quilting of the borders.
The group effort is something the entire state can be proud of and is a fitting tribute to all Louisianans as they celebrate their 200th year together. For her part, Abraham is not only proud of the end result, but also a little relieved that it is finished—a sentiment to which any quilter can relate.
“I just hope that the next quilt, 100 years from now, is not a virtual one,” she laughs. “With technology becoming so much a part of our lives, that may be what Louisianans of the future have to look forward to, but for the bicentennial, this quilt is a wonderful record of who we are today!”
Government officials are equally pleased with the result. “What makes this quilt special is its illustration of the whole being made up of many parts,” offers Secretary of State Schedler. “Here we view the talents of quilters who spotlight the individual parishes and what each considers its tour de force, whether a business or industry, a capitol, a person or an interest. When they come together, they are a giant tapestry of a state with a personality unlike any other, rich in heritage, known for being a melting pot.”
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