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Putnam resident 1st man to win W.Va. quilting contest

HURRICANE, W.Va. -- An Oriental-themed quilt is one of Jerry Adkins' favorites.

"This gave me my name," he said, while stretching it out and pointing at intricate stitching and piping along its border.

Dozens of quilts line racks in Adkins' Hurricane home -- except, one is missing.

An orange, turquoise and purple quilt now hangs in the Culture Center, purchased by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History after Adkins won the annual juried quilting competition.

It's the first winning quilt made by a man, and it was the first one Adkins had designed himself, rather than using a pattern.

"The idea that quilting is a woman's thing is so wrong," he said. "At [quilting] conventions, you see men grabbing the fabric, too."

The special judge, Linda McCuean, wrote on his scoring sheet that the quilt was, "a great combination of warm and cool colors," and "visual excitement."

Winning first place in the piecing category, best of show and the purchase award, where the Culture Center buys the quilt, is "the dream," Adkins said, having entered in the past and won other awards, but never top honors.

McCuean, an award-winning quilter and instructor from New Galilee, Pa., has been quilting for more than 30 years.

"The use of illustrious fabrics adds interest," she wrote about Adkins quilt.

His winning quilt includes a silk border and pieces of purple satin.

"I love to work with silk, because it just glistens," he said. "Some of the purple is satin, which I'll never do again -- it slides on you really hard."

Adkins considers choosing the fabric for a quilt his specialty.

"Women will come up to me in fabric stores and say 'will you help me pick out this, and pick out that'," he said. "I take that as a big compliment."

As a longtime hairdresser and former interior designer, Adkins learned to quilt from his wife about five years ago.

"I'm an artist. I have to have art in my life," he said. "Before I became a hairdresser, I wanted to design wallpaper or fabric, but I only had enough money to go to beauty school."

Adkins' wife, Dawn, just smiles and laughs at the talent she has created. She now focuses more on needlepoint, which is displayed on several pillows throughout their home.

"Before, when we needed a gift, my wife would always make a quilt," he said. "But now, I can."

Standing next to a window with sun streaming in on his worktable, Adkins lines up nine shades of blue fabric for the latest quilt he's working on. He still needs to find six more variations of blue pieces.

"I need 15," he said, working on one triangular piece that takes 30 minutes to prepare.

Entering his quilts in competitions has allowed him to, "slow down and not mass produce."

"I really enjoy doing it. When I sit down and start quilting, I forget the whole world," he said. "Quilting is just nothing but love."

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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