North Bennington quilting enthusiast designs special quilt for Park-McCullough benefit

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NORTH BENNINGTON — Inspired by the intricate patterns in the parquet floor at the historic Park-McCullough House, volunteer Mary Hawes Kohler has created a one-of-a-kind quilt.

The patterns of the hand-laid flooring, made of several different kinds of wood and fitted together with thousands of tongue-and-groove pieces, called out to Kohler during one visit. She took photos of the flooring, noticing how the pattern changed in different rooms of the grand summer "cottage" home of the Park and McCullough families. From those photos, she chose her designs.

"What I really like is patterns," said Kohler, a village resident. "Mary Feidner (another volunteer and Park-McCullough board member) and I were in the house at the end of the season, in October 2014, and I happened to look down at the floor. I went from room to room and I realized all the floors were slightly different."

"It dawned on me that would make a fantastic quilt. So Mary said she would talk to the board about doing a raffle quilt with floor designs," she said. "They're all variations of this idea with the squares — with Grecian and Celtic designs."

Kohler took photos of the floor designs in the house and got to work on the queen-sized quilt, designing it and piecing it together from October to January. From January to mid-April she quilted it in her home studio.

"That's fast for me ... seven months," she said, noting her work on the quilt included 200 hours on just the quilting. There are a total of 2,365 pieces in it, she said.

A passion for quilting

"I live and breathe quilting every day. When my hands are busy, my mind's relaxed," said Kohler, who's been quilting since 1986. "It gives me something productive to do."

The quilt, aptly named "Parquet Designs in Quilting," is part of a raffle to raise money for the Park-McCullough House. The raffle tickets will be sold all summer, with the drawing being held at a picnic August 30 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the historic mansion, which was built from 1864-1865.

She chose colors for the quilt that reflected the colors in Park-McCullough: A paisley-patterned dark red, floral brown and forest green on a background of beige. Some of the fabrics came from Kohler's own stash, and others she purchased from The Textile Company in Greenfield, Mass., and Karen's Quilting Corner in Williamstown, Mass.

"Color-scheme wise, I hardly ever start out with the whole thing planned," she said.

Kohler, who says quilting is more of an obsession than a hobby, hand quilted the piece that is more of an artwork than a bedcover. She said she pieced it together on her machine, but the rest was all by hand.

"It's a lot of work, but it's also great fun," said Kohler of her handiwork. "The planning and mapping out takes time. It's the prep work that takes three times as long as the rest. Sewing it together is easy."

On the underside of the quilt is a label that includes a rendering of Park-McCullough house and Kohler's signature.

"My main thought was if people didn't know what the house looked like, maybe the picture would give them the flavor of the house," she said.

Kohler, who moved to North Bennington from Long Island, New York, in 1991, is one of many people in the village who were naturally drawn to Park-McCullough. She said she volunteers her time at the house because she wants to keep it going.

She's a member of the Quiet Valley Quilting Guild — a group of about 60 local quilt enthusiasts — and also does quilts on commission.

Win the quilt

For a chance to win Kohler's quilt, purchase tickets ($1.00 each or six for $5.00) at Park-McCullough House, One Park St., North Bennington, on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Bennington Bookshop or Powers Market. The drawing will be held at Park-McCullough House at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 30.

To learn more about Historic Park-McCullough, visit parkmccullough.org.

Michelle Karas is the Banner's editor. Full disclosure: Karas was a volunteer for Park-McCullough house for more than two years.


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