CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two quilts with local ties on display at the Clay Center almost didn't happen.
When Sallie McClaugherty asked Nell Griffin to fashion a quilt out of her late husband John's extensive tie collection, Griffin said no. The women attend the same church and McClaugherty was familiar with and liked Griffin's work. She asked again. Griffin considered the request and eventually agreed.
"My only requirement was that we never tell anybody I did this," Griffin said.
The word is out.
She was reluctant to take on the project because she didn't want to get into the necktie quilt-making business, but the McClaughertys were special to her. These quilts are the only commissioned projects Griffin has ever accepted.
"I saw them together at church and knew how John dressed conservatively with flamboyant ties. I wanted the quilts to replicate John and who he was -- his public persona," Griffin said.
John McClaugherty died in 2003. He was the managing partner at the Jackson Kelly law firm, but was perhaps best known for his tireless and effective community fundraising, particularly for the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra and the Clay Center.
He usually wore a colorful silk tie. When the McClaughertys traveled, he often found special shops where he could purchase a notable tie. He would return to his favorite shops on subsequent visits.
"I had all these beautiful ties. I didn't want to just give them away," said Sallie, who gave one quilt to her daughter, Martha Nepa, and plans to give the other one to her son, John. The lap quilts measure roughly 3 by 4 feet and 4 by 5 feet. Before her son's quilt was hung in the exhibit, she used it at home.
"It's on the back of a chair. I use it across my lap in the evenings when I'm reading," she said. "I enjoy having it to use."
Griffin washed, disassembled and ironed each tie, even though they're machine washable and fairly durable. "These quilts will outlive Sallie's grandchildren," Griffin said.
She noticed that nearly every tie had some yellow and black in it, which she used as unifying colors. She cut the pieces so they each contained those colors, but the bright quilts contain so many colors, the theme is subtle.
"How did I decide which pieces to use where? I just picked up pieces and sewed them together," said Griffin, who sewed each of the quilts in about one week. The sewing went quickly after she prepared the fabrics, pondered her design and cut the pieces.
She had the quilting done by someone else.
"I am not an award-winning quilter. I don't ever want to be," Griffin said. She gives the quilts she makes to charities or as gifts to friends and family.
Pieces of history