Locals find state success at fair

BADGER – For more than 30 years, Diane Lehman has been showing her creative side by cutting, piecing and sewing together pieces of material into colorful quilts.

She also spends time sharing her hobby with others by working at Tillies Quilts in Fort Dodge.

“I’ve been sewing since I was about 10 years old,” said Lehman. “And I’ve been actively quilting for about 30 years. I grew up in Humboldt and there was a woman there who had made a quilt for a shower gift and I thought ‘if she can do it, so can I.'”

Lehman crafted her first quilts, two log cabin-style quilts, for her son and daughter in 1983.

“It took a while, but that hooked me,” she said. “It’s fun to create.”

Over the years, Lehman has branched out, challenging herself to more complex, colorful quilts, including one of her latest, a full-sized Bargello pattern quilt large enough to cover a queen-sized bed which includes 5,738 pieces in 85 vertical rows.

“I saw that one in a quilting magazine a couple of years ago,” said Lehman. “We had fun pulling all of the fabrics for it, and cutting, piecing together and resewing it. There are actually 120 different fabrics cut out into strips and sewn together in an order in this one.”

After more than a year’s work on the quilt, Lehman entered it, along with another quilt and a quilted wall hanging in the Iowa State Fair, where she has been showing quilts for more than 20 years.

Lehman’s quilts were on display, along with more than 700 others from quilters across the state, in the Varied Industries Building on the Iowa State Fairgrounds, where they were evaluated by judges.

“I was just waiting to hear if maybe any of mine had gotten a ribbon,” said Lehman. “Not everything you enter at the State Fair gets a ribbon.”

Lehman’s hopes for a ribbon were more than granted when she received word that her quilt had been awarded Best of Show out of all entries in the pieced quilt category.

“I was so excited and surprised at the same time,”she said. “Typically, an applique quilt wins that class. It was just a real surprise for sure. I’ve gotten lots of ribbons over the years, but this was my first Best of Show. I am sure it will probably be my only.”

Lehman’s wall hanging received a blue ribbon and was in the running for best machine-quilted entry.

Lehman said she almost always has a quilting project underway with time to think about next year’s potential entries.

“Time will tell,” she said. “I’m always working on something.”