Ann Gravelle

By Jennifer Cuthbertson

Learning embroidery and sewing as a girl, Ann continued to do handwork as an adult, but when she lived in Kansas City in 1972, She decided to branch out and try something new. She signed up to take a quilting class at the community college, and she found a new avocation.

“I got hooked,” she laughed.

While still in Kansas City, Ann began teaching quilting at a quilt shop, and when she moved to Phoenix she once again found her local quilt shop and continued passing her quilting expertise on to a new group of lucky students. Twenty years ago, Ann and her husband moved to Atlanta and she continued her teaching career.

Ann is still a teacher and she lists teaching at the Center for Positive Aging as one of her favorite quilting projects. She has a quarterly quilting class with students ranging in age from 56-93 years old. The center is located in the North Avenue Presbyterian Church, which also houses a children’s shelter. Ann walked in to the shelter and saw the large purple wall in the entry ahead and realized it was just waiting for a quilt, so she organized her senior group. They created a quilt of primary colors and presented it to an overwhelmed director who promptly hung the quilt on the designated wall.

Community service projects are a favorite of Ann’s and she also works on them with the Gwinnett Quilting Guild. Each year the guild makes over 100 quilts to give to Scottish Rite Hospital, so that critically ill children can have a homemade source of comfort. She has also helped turn some vintage scraps into quilts for a nursing home.

When a woman donated quilt scraps and blocks started by her mother, Ann helped organize a challenge. Each person who accepted drew a brown paper bag filled with scraps and was challenged to make a quilt.

“It’s amazing what we created. We showed the quilts to the couple who donated the scraps and they couldn’t believe what we came up with.”

Ann has also helped spread international understanding through quilting and the International Quilting Exchange, which was begun in 1983 by Lindsay Moss. Quilters form Georgia went to different European cities when there was a quilting event. They stayed in the homes of quilters and got to sightsee, learn about the culture, and find out about quilting in whatever part of the world they happened to be in.

“I traveled to England, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, and Austria. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet other quilters and to learn about quilting in that country.”

Preserving Georgia’s quilting heritage is another mission that Ann has taken on. She has been the treasurer for the Georgia Quilt Project ever since it was organized. This group was started as part of the Georgia Quilt Council and is charged with documenting Georgia’s quilts. Ann estimates they have documented well over 9000 quilts. Some of these have been on display at the Atlanta History Center.

The Georgia Quilt Project was also responsible for the Olympic Quilt Project in 1996. This group quilted over 400 lap quilts, two per participating country, and gave them to representatives of each country Ann says that individuals, school groups, community groups, and seniors groups all participated. She says that one of the highlights of this project was going to the Olympic Village to present the quilts. Another was publishing a book about the project.

A personal highlight for Ann was celebrating her 54th wedding anniversary this year and celebrating her 75th birthday. The latter occasion also served as a reminder that, as Ann says, “quilting is a wonderful way to make friends.”

In February for her birthday her friends presented her with a memory quilt top, which contained over fifty blocks made by friends all over the state. Ann had the top quilted and showed it off at a recent Quilt Council meeting.

Ann’s reflection on her quilting experiences sums it all up nicely, “Quilting has allowed me to meet a lot of friends I would not have the occasion to make otherwise.”

October 2003