CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- To her grandchildren, Anita Shackelford is just Grandma -- a great cook who spends time with them when she isn't running that business she has. One grandchild opened his eyes a little wider when he realized a customer wanted Grandma's autograph in a book she wrote.
He had reason to take notice: Shackelford is an award-winning quilter and author with an international reputation and more than 45 years of quilting experience. She also has made the transition from being a renowned hand-quilter and hand-quilting pattern designer to a pattern designer for digitized longarm sewing machines.
You might say there are a lot of stitches from there to here.
Shackelford headlines the 2013 West Virginia Quilt Festival, June 20-22 at the Summersville Arena and Conference Center. She will teach classes to registered quilters, but she also will be delivering a lecture and trunk show that is free and open to the public at 7 p.m. June 20.
Her quilts have been exhibited in shows across the United States and in Australia and Japan, and have appeared in more publications and books than many libraries have on the subject. Books and quilting tools are marketed under her business name, Thimble Works.
"I didn't see it coming at all," Shackelford said of her career and business in quilt making. "But on the other hand, when the door opened, I was ready for it because I had done the work to improve my skills. I told my children and now tell my grandchildren, you have to be ready."
Shackelford grew up with quilts and has some of her grandmother's creations. It was her Aunt Gini, however, who taught her to quilt. Gini was also a quilt collector, although in the 1950s and 1960s the term "collector" wasn't really a common term for quilt lovers.
"I was attracted to her quilts," Shackelford said. "She would get them out for me and we would talk about different patterns. It was my senior year in college that I said I wanted to make one."
Gini took Shackelford shopping to choose the fabrics. The pattern she used was a template of Shackelford's grandmother. Shackelford calls that shopping trip "one of the greatest gifts in life." The result was a hand-stitched quilt that she acknowledges probably would not win any awards for exacting workmanship. But it remains cherished because of its history and what it represents.
It was just the beginning.
Shackelford spent nearly two decades making quilts for family members and giving some of them away. Then, in 1984, she entered two of her quilts in the National Quilting Association show. One won second place.