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A compass also denotes direction in quilts

By Staff | Jul 24, 2012

Holding a Muncy Compass quilt block with colors reminding her of childhood visits to Hughesville is Cathleen Koons Wiggs of Waverly, New York.  

MUNCY- Points, encircling boundaries, ranges or scopes denoting geographical directions describe the workings of a compass. All the former could be said of the Muncy Compass quilt block designed by Betty Neff and Judith Youngman. It was introduced at the 2006 quilt show, the second annual event of its kind sponsored by the Muncy Historical Society.

Neff, a well known quilter, teacher, published designer and writer spent fourteen years in Muncy when her husband taught in the school district there. Soon after they arrived here, winter did too and cold drafts blew through a large crack on an inside wall of their home. “I didn’t have quilts then, but quickly put one together and hung it to cover the large crack,” Neff said.

And so the saga of Neff’s journey into the world of quilting began. When the society needed a second block in their series, Neff by this time a Canton resident, turned her scope toward Muncy and with Judith Youngman, was inspired by an antique quilt in the Muncy Historical Society’s holdings.

Youngman, a renowned Pennsdale quilter, replicated the society’s original compass quilt and both were displayed at that show.

Since then Neff said, “I’ve taught compass block classes at guild and show workshops up and down the coast from Ontario to Florida.” These workshops included one in her area, the Endless Mountain Quilt Guild where several students are crafting compass blocks. One of those quilters is Cathleen Koons Wiggs of Waverly, New York who added to the pattern by putting an additional band around the outer border of her compass. “I love it when quilters make it their own,” Neff said. Student and teacher met briefly last Saturday at Muncy’s eighth annual show where between them and several on-lookers, an impromptu preview of unattached compass blocks was shared.

It was then Wiggs recounted the story of bygone days spent in Hughesville at the home of grandparents George Koons and his wife who was a Collins.

Having already chosen double pink material for the background, Wiggs was mindlessly paper piecing fabrics together when she was reminded of one of many nights spent at grandma’s house.

“I remember the room well, the brass bed with a satin covering and sheets ironed with grandma’s home made starch. That and the lace curtains made it a beautiful room,” Wiggs said.

For overnight keeping, the youngster attached her wad of bubble gum to the brass headboard. One night she had a scare and when her grandparents came to the room grandma scolded her when the pink bubble gum was spotted.

The next morning and days thereafter, Wiggs found a wrapper holding a fresh stick of gum her grandfather left on her bed before going to work.

Sometime after Koons naval duties during WWII ended, they moved to Athens where the grandfather took a job with a gas company, thus curtailing trips to Hughesville.

“Every quilt has a story,” Neff said, and assimilates her experiences with the Compass block to “throwing pebbles in the water and watching it grow. Now it’s time for them to come home to Muncy,” suggesting a combined effort is made for a featured display at the 2013 show.

This effort could be greatly increased as Judith Youngman was teaching the pattern at a workshop during last weekend’s show. She too is “throwing stones in the water for ripples to form.” Both quilters teach the pattern but approach it with different horizons.

Among quilts shown this year were two compass quilts, one by Jacalyn Hanraker and another by Nancy Simmons of Duncannon. Both were award winners with Simmons entry deemed ‘Best of Show.” Simmons began her quilt in a class with Neff at the 2009 Hershey show.

Other events showcasing Muncy Compass quilts will be at Quilt Odyssey, a show at Hershey this weekend where Kathleen McLaughlin of Connecticut will display her award winning quilt which has earned prizes in shows in New England and last April at Paducah, Kentucky.

During the Endless Mountain Quilt show Sept 22-23 (10-5) at Lynch Bustin Elementary School in Athens, PA, the 102 inch square compass quilt by Kathleen Wiggs will debut having been machine quilted by her friend Rhonda Adams who’ll also showcase her compass quilt.

The Muncy Compass pattern is available at the Muncy Historical Society, Montoursville’s ‘Gathering Place,’ or by contacting Neff at her website www.bettyneff.com.