Barbara Jahn works on a quilted wall hanging called “Ceremony of Carols” that was inspired by music she learned to play on the piano in earlier years. Photo by Carlos Tobon, Medellin, Colombia.The design on the quilt pictured is a Barbara Jahn original, inspired by Benjamin Britten’s score for “Ceremony of Carols.” Photo provided.

Quilts featured at PAST holiday luncheons

The PAST organization of Union County announces a special exhibition of unique quilted wall hangings during the Christmas Luncheons at Heritage House in Jonesboro.  

The collection is inspired by “Christmas Carols” and sets the theme for the annual PAST sponsored luncheons to benefit the Heritage House Museum and its historical preservation projects.

The guest exhibitor is Barbara Walter Jahn of Medellin, Colombia, South America. Jahn is an Anna native, the daughter of Adolph III and Peggy Nimmo Walter.

Seeing Christmas Carols is a group of quilts and textile works completed during this past year (2015-2016) especially for PAST’s historic Heritage House Museum in Jonesboro.

As a busy teenaged pianist at Anna-Jonesboro Community High School and the Anna United Methodist Church, as well as organist for St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Barbara developed very personal visual images of the music of Christmas that remain vivid today.

“The invitation to exhibit quilts in this wonderfully restored historic home, during the holiday season, in my own home town is, indeed a pleasure,” she said. “This mission inspired my designs and use of vintage wool, silk, and other findings to re-create images I vividly recall.” 

Jahn explained that she purposely chose numerous “repurposed” fabrics for this project, selected from her collection of dress and suit fabric from three generations of the Walter family.  

Included are old ties, crocheted items, buttons, and other vintage pieces. Among her shared ‘souvenirs’ are antique quilt blocks that were constructed by women in Pope County years ago, but never set into a finished quilt.

“Various traditional sewing techniques have been used with intent to honor the past of Anna and Jonesboro, as well as to focus on the history of the carols themselves,” she said.  

“I think I have included in this project just about all of the various techniques of sewing that I have ever learned,” she said.

PAST’s Christmas Luncheons at Heritage House, 102 S. Main St., Jonesboro, Illinois are set for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 1-3, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7-10. 

Doors open at 11:30 a.m. and luncheon is served at noon. Tickets are $20 and guests are invited to tour the house and quilt exhibition following each luncheon.  

Reservations are necessary and can be made by calling Linda at 833-3347.

Meet Barbara Walter Jahn, Textile Artist, Heritage House Exhibitor

“My learning-to-sew history started with my grandmother Fan Walter teaching me to hold a needle and an embroidery hoop so I could play with thread when I was five years old,” Jahn says. 

“I was drawn to fabric and thread like a moth to light after that, making all my own doll clothes with the scraps from Mother’s sewing of all our clothing.

“When I was in fifth grade, Esther Mary Ayers led me through my first garment-sewing project, using her treadle sewing machine. I was so proud of that skirt."  

“I think Mom must have been tired of having to fight for her sewing machine after that because my 8th grade graduation present was a portable Singer.

“I can’t not sew...and I have never been able to throw away scraps or remnants.  That trait came from grandmother Muriel Nimmo, who taught me to hand-piece and encouraged my first quilt.  

“Grandpa Buck Nimmo, at Nimmo Lumber Yard, south of Anna, made my first quilting frame.  

“My dad, Adolph Walter, III made my second quilt frame which I use when I am in Anna. 

“My third quilt frame was made by Albeiro Cardona in Medellin. He had no clue what it was but after several sample photos and sketches, he produced the most perfectly-designed eight-foot frame made especially for my height and reach. He is also responsible for all my studio furnishings and for converting my apartment into a sewing haven. This is why I don’t return to U.S. soil.”

Barbara Walter Jahn is an SIU graduate in international relations. She worked as director of binding and conservation at SIU’s Morris Library until the birth of her son Jeremiah.  

At that time she joined the Adolph Walter family Kentucky Fried Chicken business full time as general manager. 

When her parents sold the franchise in 1985, she became employed as interim director of Carbondale New School and then attended SIU graduate school in linguistics.  

She earned a degree in Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), working at Carbondale English as a Second Language (CESL) and as an English as a Second Language (ESL) writing teacher.     

At age 42, she decided to make her midlife crisis a positive one, and to provide her son with a chance to enlarge his horizons.  

She accepted a job as writing and business English professor in Medellin, Colombia, South America. 

The contract was for two years. Since her administrative experience was valued and a tiny library was in need of development, she was successfully encouraged to extend the stay.  

She helped the Centro Colombo Americano to become the leading U.S. binational center in the world, and its library to become the largest English collection in Colombia. It became the first library in the country to develop an automated catalog system. She retired as library director in 2002.

Barbara Walter Jahn has lived in Medellin since 1989. After years as part of the cultural scene of this dynamic city, she decided to stay and enjoy the weather and low cost of living while she studied art and established the quilting studio she had always dreamed of having.  

She makes regular long visits to the United States to spend time with her family and to restock her studio supplies.

Jahn has designed and made hundreds of quilted works in the past 15 years and has been a finalist twice at both the Houston International Quilt Show and the Paducah American Quilters’ Society Show.  

One of her large quilts was included in the 2014 Lark Books publication “500 Traditional Quilts.” Her work is very popular in Medellin and she has had four solo exhibitions. Her work is also regularly included in fine art group shows.  She was a visiting professor of textile arts for the University of Antioquia for a semester. 

Two Jahn quilts were entered in PAST’s 2013 Quilts and Tables Show in Anna.  One was as a collection of African prints and the other was called “Garden Rhapsody.” “Garden Rhapsody” won the 2013 People’s Choice “Best of Show” Award. 

In addition to sharing her quilts at Heritage House, Barbara Walter Jahn will be visiting with family and friends in Southern Illinois through the holidays.

(Note: the accompanying article and pictures were shared by Barbara Bauer, on behalf of PAST.)

The design on the quilt pictured is a Barbara Jahn original, inspired by Benjamin Britten’s score for “Ceremony of Carols.” Jahn explained that in creating the quilt: “I had to use 3/8 inch seams because the silk pieces raveled so badly. These nearly double-sized cut pieces made the improvisation of the rhythms and harmonies difficult because the sizes changed so drastically when sewn. It was hard to keep track of visually.  As usual I didn’t use a pattern but followed the movements found in the piano score. This in itself is one of the hardest things I have ever learned to play, (on piano) and trying to make this ‘flash of fantastic sound’ in silk, may rate as my hardest quilt project.”

The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158

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