Young artist, quilter take top prize at state fair

Published 6:48 pm Monday, November 21, 2016

For over a year and half, 7-year-old Ally Smith-Galicia drew her favorite moments: a day at the beach; jumping hay bales with her cousins at her great-uncle’s farm; and many other scenes from young girl’s life.

Whereas many drawings of that sort would be displayed on a refrigerator for a few months, later tucked into a drawer as a keepsake, Ally’s drawings, and the quilt made from them, recently won first place in the Overall Handcraft and Hobbies category and Best in Show in needlework, age 9 and under, at the North Carolina State Fair.

It’s called a Memory Quilt, and it’s a project that Ally and her grandmother Dorraine Smith started together at the suggestion Smith’s friend, quilter Phrocene Allen, who’s a member of Threads of the Pungo quilting guild in Belhaven.

Smith said for many years, Ally turned to drawing to express herself, and she wanted to find a way to preserve the special moments in her grandchild’s life.

“I had been compiling things in a scrapbook, and it was on paper and the paper would grow brittle,” Smith said.

At Allen’s suggestion, they decided to make something a little more permanent with Ally’s drawings. Allen cut 20 squares of muslin and they put those and fabric markers in a box to take everywhere, from beach to mountains.

Ally described in detail the many drawings, stitched together by Allen, to make the colorful quilt.

“This is the time I drew rainbows,” Ally said, pointing to one square. “This is a rainbow. This is a rainbow. And these are rainbow flowers.”

Another shows a moment on a hot summer’s day: a palm, a leaf, a blazing sun.

“It was hot,” Ally said. “One drop of the wet leaf fell into my hand, and it kept my hand cool.”

“Every picture is a story of her life,” Smith said.

Tuesday night, Ally’s quilt will be on display at the Turnage Theatre during the “Light Up the City” festivities starting at 5:30 p.m. in downtown Washington, in which the city will officially light up downtown for the holidays. Smith said she encourages people to consider preserving their children’s or grandchildren’s art in the same way.

“It’s the permanence of the fabric, muslin, and for the child, they’ll be able to look back on those memories,” Smith said. “I don’t think a lot of people thought about this or know about this at the fair. They hadn’t thought about using fabric. … I just want to let others know. It doesn’t have to be a whole quilt. I could be four squares hanging on the wall.”

The Turnage Theatre is located at 150 W. Main St., Washington.