When she was a child, Charlotte Tucker recalls being fascinated by her grandmother, who would sit in her rocking chair and quilt. These days, it is others who are amazed at Tucker’s true gift for an old-fashioned craft with a robust present-day popularity. In fact, her skill recently has been on full display after she quilted the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service’s official centennial anniversary quilt.
“I was excited,” Tucker said of receiving the call to gauge her interest in the project. “I felt honored they chose me and asked if I’d be interested in quilting it.”
As part of a series of events honoring its 100th anniversary, Extension sponsored a quilt block challenge to engage the public in the celebration. Out of 152 well-crafted entries from 48 Oklahoma counties as well as Texas and Missouri, 42 colorful blocks were chosen to create the official quilt.
Tucker, who lives near Fairview, Oklahoma, was selected as the quilter for the commemorative project based on the recommendation of a member of the committee overseeing the quilt block challenge, as well as a fellow quilter who had entered the challenge.
Incredibly, in a day and age rich with technology, Tucker firmly believes when it comes to quilting, she can do what a computerized machine cannot. Instead, she guides her long-arm quilting machine with only a steady hand and sharp eye.
“One thing that’s interesting about [Charlotte’s] work is that this is not computerized. It’s all free-hand, long-arm quilting, so it’s an art form in itself. It’s quilted by hand through her eye and careful measurement,” said Recia Garcia, co-chair of Extension’s centennial committee, who noted Tucker treated each individual block in a manner she thought best highlighted its characteristics to create a truly customized quilt.
A self-described fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants quilter, Tucker said she never has a plan for a quilt until it is in her quilt rack. In the case of Extension’s centennial quilt, Tucker felt it called for the tight, intricate stitching that makes every block shine to its fullest potential.
The finished product is a stunning 118-by-89-inch creation representing well over 30 hours of Tucker’s time, expertise and creativity.
A former 4-H’er who enjoyed completing sewing projects, Tucker took up quilting at 18. Although she has only been a professional quilter for about seven years, and despite relying almost entirely on word of mouth, business is brisk.
Even so, quilting is not Tucker’s primary vocation. The family farms about 800 acres in Major County, including a couple hundred acres of wheat and about 600 acres of grass, along with running a cow-calf operation.
The centennial quilt has been shown at various venues across the state this fall such as the Oklahoma State University Homecoming Sea of Orange Parade and will be permanently displayed in Agriculture Hall on the OSU campus in Stillwater, the state headquarters for Extension.
“I’m just so honored and humbled by the talent and generosity that people have shared with us,” Garcia said. “I want to thank everyone who made this possible, and I hope they feel like the quilt belongs to them.”
Tucker will be featured on SUNUP in a segment about Extension’s centennial quilt block challenge on Saturday, Dec. 20. SUNUP airs weekly on OETA-TV at 7:30 a.m. on Saturdays and 6 a.m. on Sundays.