Lamborn earns prestigious honor for 4-H quilt project

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Blake Lamborn’s Civil War quilt not only earned top honors at this year’s Iowa State Fair, but also received the “Excellence in Iowa History” award from the State Historical Society. In addition, it was selected to be displayed for two months at the state 4-H office, in Ames. (Submitted photo)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

A love of history and a passion for quilting culminated in a prestigious honor for local 4-Her Blake Lamborn at this year’s Iowa State Fair. 

Blake’s Civil War quilt project not only took home a blue ribbon, but was honored for “Excellence in Iowa History,” an award bestowed by the State Historical Society. It was also selected to be displayed for two months at the state 4-H office, in Ames.

“I was surprised,” he admitted of earning the historical recognition and the opportunity to have his project displayed. “I didn’t know that could be done.”

Blake, now a seventh grader at MFL MarMac, is no stranger to success at the fair. Another one of his quilts previously advanced to the state fair, while two others received ribbons for “outstanding junior,” meaning the work was state fair-quality, but he was too young to exhibit there.

This year was special, though.

“I’ve always liked learning about history, and I always wanted to build a quilt about the Civil War,” he said.

The only problem: the perfect fabric was hard to come by. That is, until this year, when he discovered the quilt’s central piece, which depicts a Civil War battle complete with cannons and fighting soldiers. The accompanying fabric features  a patriotic mix of reds, whites and blues, stars and stripes and American flags.

Creating the quilt was no easy task, with Blake working nearly non-stop for two days to complete it.

“In the beginning, I was excited about how it was going to turn out,” he said. “Then, it starts to get long. But in the end, it’s all worth it.”

Blake first helped select the fabric and quilt design. He also pieced the quilt top, then put the binding on by hand, after it was quilted by someone else.

“My quilt was the ‘flying geese’ pattern. The corner pieces took the most time,” he noted. “I learned a lot about how to form a quilt. Certain fabrics have to be a certain direction, but some things can change.”

For example, the quilt was originally supposed to have seven or eight stars on the top and bottom, but Blake didn’t want to make it that big, so he pared it down to six stars, instead. He also swapped out one of the original red colors, after feeling it looked too orange compared to the rest of the quilt.

The entire process was documented, step-by-step, with photos and a written narrative, which were put in a binder and exhibited with the quilt as part of the project. 

Judges, said Blake’s mom, Jill, don’t just consider the quilter’s skill and finished product, but the whole process that went into creating it.

Through the whole adventure, Blake was inspired and aided by his family. Older brother, Brock, had also exhibited quilts at the fair. Both Blake’s grandmothers are avid quilters.

“His grandma Deb was a judge at fairs and knew what should be expected,” Jill said of her mother. “She’s always active in helping with the exhibits and enjoys helping the kids make projects.”

For Blake, a member of the Monona Jr. Feeders 4-H Club, the Civil War quilt’s first stop was the Clayton County Fair, where it received a purple ribbon and was considered—and then chosen—for state.

“Only a certain number of projects can be sent in each division,” Jill explained. “This was in sewing and needle arts.”

The quilt then traveled to the Iowa State Fair along with the other selected exhibits from Clayton County.

Blake visited the state fair with his grandma for two days, where he was able to see his quilt displayed among the other unique projects in the exhibit hall.

“That’s when I found out I got the historical award,” he said. “I was excited about it. When I went and looked at the other quilts, and noticed that others didn’t have it, I knew it was hard to get.”

It was on the final day of the fair, Aug. 20, when the family received a call asking if the quilt could be displayed in the state 4-H office.

“It’s awesome, and an honor. We’re hoping to find out what the hours are, so we can take a trip and see it displayed,” Jill said. “We’d love to see where it’s at.”

Once the quilt returns home, Blake said it will likely go on his bed.

Blake plans to continue quilting, and encourages others to also give it a try.

“It’s fun picking out fabric because there are so many options,” he shared. “That’s why quilting can be for everyone.”

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