Quilter bringing work ‘home’

BLUE EARTH – Lola Hendrickson will come full circle when she returns as the featured quilter at the 31st Annual Upper Midwest Woodcarvers and Quilt Expo on Aug. 15-17 at Blue Earth Area High School. She was instrumental in getting quilts added to the event.

“I enjoy looking at woodcarving and thought it would be nice if there was something behind them,” she said. “It would give an extra draw to the show.”

Organizers took her advice and added quilts, bringing in more people.

Hendrickson’s own quilts will be on display.

“I think I’ve got between 70 and 80,” she said. “Not all bed quilts, some are smaller projects as well.

She has been collecting it for a while.

“I made my first quilt when I was a freshman in college,” Hendrickson said.

She had sewn in high school and 4-H, but didn’t like it.

“It was more you sewed clothing and that’s what I didn’t like,” she said, adding that it was difficult to fit a garment just right. “Beds don’t complain.”

When she turned to quilting, she consulted her grandmother. Together they picked out a pattern, but Hendrickson had a lot to learn.

“I didn’t know what fabric made good quilts or design,” she said. “It was really a project of winging it.

“That quilt took me four years to make,” she said, adding she hand-pieced it and hand-quilted it too.

Her father set up the frame and she and her grandmother stitched it. Visitors were asked to contribute some stitches as well.

“I was dating my to-be-husband (Mike) at the time and he even took some stitches in it,” Hendrickson said. “It was done in time when we came back from our honeymoon, it was on our bed.”

Hendrickson had found what she wanted to do in life.

“Teaching is my profession and quilting is my hobby and when I can teach quilting I’ve found my niche,” she said.

In 1988, she, Jolyn Olson and Arlene Holm started Quilt Company in two rooms of the Beacon Motel on Highway 169 in Blue Earth. They later relocated downtown and branched out.

“People would come in with a picture and we’d write out directions [for the item],” Hendrickson said.

Then it dawned on them to develop their own patterns and self-publish them.

Hendrickson left Quilt Company in 2000, when her husband’s job took them to Omaha.

While there, Hancock Fabrics requested 15 different patterns, three copies each for their boutique stores, of which they had 200 at the time.

“I printed 45 patterns for 200 stores; 9,000 patterns, on our computer,” Hendrickson said. “It took us about six weeks to do it. It was fun and exciting. It was a thrill to have them nationwide.”

The Quilt Company closed in 2002. The Hendricksons came back in 2004 and now live in Lakeville.

“Since we moved back, I’ve done a lot of work with Fabric Town in Apple Valley, and taught a lot of classes there, and made samples for the store,” Hendrickson said.

Since that store closed, she has done custom work, taught Community Ed classes and visited quilt shows for area quilt guilds.

Hendrickson believes she knows why quilting is coming back.

“There’s a feeling of accomplishment, tranquility; the artistic feeling of it, the usefulness of it,” she said.

“I call it my therapy,” Hendrickson said. “It’s precise but it’s very relaxing to me.”