Retired educator and Baltimore City Councilwoman Vera Hall was one of the first residents of The Homestead when it opened in 2018. We chatted with Vera to learn more about her love of quilting and how it has brought together some first-time quilters to put together a history-making work of art for Springwell.
“Fabric has been a love of my life,” said Hall, who learned the basics of sewing and quilting from her grandmother. “I’ve always said I’ve been fed with a needle and thread.”
Hall retired in 2001 with the very intention of quilting. She had a long career in education and politics, having worked in the Baltimore City public school system, the MD State Department of Education and Morgan State University. She also represented the city’s fifth district on the Baltimore City Council. Hall made history in 1992 when she was elected as the first African American woman chair of a state democratic party.
Her retirement plans took a detour, as she had to become the family caregiver when her sister-in-law fell ill. After things settled down, Hall enrolled in an applique class – and later a graduate class – with the famed Mimi Dietrich, a Baltimore-based professional quilting instructor who has written 17 books about quilting and is in the National Quilting Hall of Fame.
Hall spent a year making her Baltimore Album Quilt, one of the most popular styles of quilts which originated in Baltimore in the 1840s and are still made today. She named the quilt her Baltimore Jewel Quilt, and it is complete with a peacock in beautiful jewel-toned colors inspired by a peacock-themed stained glass window. Each block of the quilt is appliquéd with a different design, many of which are floral.
Hall has been given a lot of opportunities to share her love of quilting. She has been asked to speak about her quilts at many different venues, including the State House in Annapolis. One of the projects that Hall is most proud of is a series of four Civil War quilts featuring Robert Smalls, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Elizabeth Keckley. Her work is featured in the book “If I Survive: Frederick Douglass and Family in the Walter O. Evans Collection,” written by Celeste-Marie Bernier and Andrew Taylor. She had the opportunity to meet Dr. Evans, who is an avid collector of Frederick Douglass memorabilia.
Hall’s latest project, which is a group effort, hits very close to home. She and The Homestead Quilting Club are creating a Springwell-themed quilt representing the first residents of The Homestead. There was a Town Hall Meeting held in March — the largest crowd ever for a Town Hall according to the quilters — to get feedback from residents on a design, and a tree theme was selected to mimic the Springwell logo and the park-like setting of the community.
In addition to Hall, the Quilting Club consists of Shirley Braverman, Barbara Cutko, Ursula Scheffel and Mary Smith. The quilters meet every Tuesday afternoon and spend time making blocks and chatting. All of the ladies had prior sewing experience, but not all had made quilts.
“Vera is really patient and willing to help others. I have learned a lot from her,” said Braverman.
Added Hall: “I get a real sense of accomplishment when I complete a quilt. I get so much comfort out of it. Anytime I get someone to try quilting, I feel like I’m contributing something to the future.”
Once the quilt is complete, there will be a ceremony and the quilt will be hung prominently at The Homestead. Then it will be on to the next quilting project.