Abbott has learned her technique through trial and error, and during several quilting classes she's taken since her first course at Northern Essex Community College in 1999. She also gains inspiration, insight and ideas from talking with other quilters at shows and in a quilters guild, the Watertown-based Quilter's Connection.
Quilting has changed and grown as an art form in recent decades, Abbott said.
"Quilting has undergone such an amazing transformation. Since the early 1970s, people have begun to rediscover quilts. There has been a shift, a revitalization, of quilting from craft to art," she said. "There are over 30 million quilters in the U.S. right now. It has completely revitalized the textile industry in this country, which was all but dead. Lowell, Lawrence, this whole area was born of textiles."
Betsy and Don Abbott have two grown children and four grandchildren. They moved to Andover in 1992, and she worked at the Andover Bookstore for 16 years before retiring last year. Don Abbott works in the development office at Phillips Academy, and has plans to retire at the end of this month.
One of Abbott's first quilting projects was to make a storybook quilt for each of her four grandchildren. Using storybook illustrations as a template, she made each grandchild a quilt picturing a scene from a children's fable or nursery rhyme.
The Townsman sat down with Abbott last week to discuss quilting.
Talk about "Shag Rock," the quilt in the AQS show in Tennessee.
"Shag Rock" is of five cormorants on a rocky coast. Some people think cormorants are ugly — they have a long neck and are all black. In the water, they're extremely fast and sleek. Their feathers absorb water (they don't have the oil glands that ducks and other water birds do), so they have to spread their wings out to dry.