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A Quilt for the Generations in Vermont

Deborah King was 95 years old when she pulled an unfinished quilt from her belongings. She was living in Hartland with her daughter, who had never seen it before. The quilt was at least 150 years old.

“I think I’ll finish this,” Gloria King Merritt remembered her mother saying, as she began to handle the pink fabric.

King almost quilted to completion, but died six months after she took up the project, in March 2012. With an assist from a friend of hers, the quilt, which was in the making since the mid-19th century, was completed.

The long-in-the-making quilt hangs at Billings Farm & Museum’s 27th Annual Quilt Exhibition through Sept. 22.

It’s called Charlotte’s 4 Patch, a name chosen as a nod to the quilt’s story . It was completed several months ago by Charlotte Croft, an East Barnard quilter and friend of King’s.

It was started by Charlotte Loomis of Danville, Vt., the great-great-grandmother of King Merritt. When she started it isn’t known, but King Merritt figures she probably began in her teens. She was born in 1828.

“I’m just amazed,” King Merritt said, standing beside the quilt, one of 39 at the exhibit. “It’s the most unique group quilt I think I’ve ever heard of.”

Charlotte’s 4 Patch has an antique feel, as it would, and stands out in a room full of 21st-century quilts. At least visually, it’s uncomplicated in its construction. The pink, patterned fabric serves as a canvas for a grid of 30 squares, each one of which is which segmented into four more gray and white squares, each decorated with a stitched heart.

King almost finished her ancestors’ quilt, but Croft ended up putting in the final touches. King Merritt, a digital artist who lives in Hartland, never took to quilting like her mother.

Croft met King’s quilts before she met King herself, starting with a small, autumnal wall hanging that wowed her more than a quarter-century ago.

e_SDLqThey were just absolutely spectacular,” Croft said of King’s quilts. “Some people are just born with the talent.”

The two women began to run in the same circles. Both submitted quilts to every Billings Farm & Museum Quilt Exhibition since its inception. Both were part of the Delectable Mountain Quilters, which meets weekly in locales around the Upper Valley. Croft said King was one of the top two quilters in the group.

Then why did it take her 95 years to begin work on the quilt that ties the King family back to the 1800s?

Standing near the final product, a 43.6-square-foot quilt hanging by itself toward the middle of the exhibition, King Merritt said she wasn’t sure.

“I don’t know why she decided to do it last,” King Merritt said. “But she did.”

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.