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Pieces of North Georgia
Hall County quilters share their love and creativity one blanket at a time
Judy Wangemann shows some of her quilts, including "Wake Up, Gainesville," right, which won Viewers’ Choice at a local quilt show. - photo by Tom Reed

Two years ago, quilter Judy Wangemann was given a challenge: Come up with a chicken quilt for a quilt show.

But rather than simply take pieces of fabric and create a pattern, Wangemann went one step further — she applied photos of Gainesville to create the background sky behind a crowing rooster.

"I wanted to show different pictures of Gainesville and used pictures taken around the city," Wangemann said.

Her quilt, which measures 44 inches by 39 inches, was titled "Wake Up, Gainesville." The piece took the Viewers’ Choice award at a local quilt show.

The rooster is created out of brightly colored, hand-dyed pieces that result in the appearance of vibrant feathers. The background is made of photos taken around Gainesville, and on the top of the quilt is the morning skyline. Wangemann said she plans to hang the quilt in her home.

Wangemann, 52, a Gainesville resident since 1969, said her craft has evolved over time.

"I’ve always liked quilting and had fabric and put it together," she said. "Naturally, I got into quilting."

The hobby also led her to the Hall County Quilt Guild, a group of about 45 members that began in 1978. Its members range from their mid-20s to their 80s.

Ginny Hendrix, 62, of Hoschton, co-president of the guild, has been sewing for more than 35 years.

"I just love to sew, and it’s very relaxing to me. You can come up with some really gorgeous artwork," Hendrix said.

Wangemann, who is the program chairman for the guild, said she has been sewing since she was 10 years old. Many in Gainesville are familiar with her husband, City Councilman George Wangemann.

The guild draws people from all over North Georgia, Wangemann said. They meet on the first Monday of each month at the Chestnut Mountain Presbyterian Church on Winder Highway in Flowery Branch.

"It’s a good group of people that have fun together," Wangemann said. "All different skill levels are welcome."

Guest speakers often come in and do workshops at the monthly meetings, and all members will do a project using what they learn. Wangemann said she has scheduled quilting professional Barbara Webster of Burnsville, N.C., to lecture on incorporating photography into quilts at the March meeting.

Webster’s technique is the same one Wangemann used to create "Wake Up, Gainesville." Wangemann said she uses a computer printer to "transfer the pictures to pre-treated fabric sheets specially treated so the photographs will adhere."

The guild also serves the community through its quilts.

Richard Hood, 71, of Buford and the guild’s only male member, said his favorite part of the group is the philanthropy. The guild has donated many quilts to the community, including to Eagle Ranch, a boys’ and girls’ home based in Hall County.

Every child who comes into Eagle Ranch leaves with a quilt that the guild made, "whether they are there a day or a year, they can pick out the quilt that they want," Hood said.

He said they make between 30 and 40 per year for the children’s home.

"Quilters are a bunch of giving people that love what they do," he said. "It’s always a labor of love and we enjoy seeing the expressions on faces when we give away a quilt." Hood said he got into quilting in 1992 when his wife began quilting. He teaches algebra, geometry, chemistry and physical science to home-schooled children in Dacula.

His professional skills also apply in his quilting, he said. "Really, quilting is mathematics."

Since Hood began quilting, he said he has completed between 300 and 400 quilts.

It is this independent, can-do spirit that drives many quilters, Wangemann said.

"Do what you enjoy doing. Don’t feel pressured by conforming to other people’s ideas," she said. "Do your own."