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Quilting wins run in family

Grandparents are often instrumental in the lives of their grandchildren. They teach values like unconditional love. They watch over their grandchildren, even babysit. And once in a while, they pass along things a little more unique, like a hobby.

Such is the bond between Farmington grandmother Nancy Cornair and her granddaughter Megan Vetscher. The two spend a lot of time together. Certainly, Cornair has passed along a lot of things to her granddaughter, including love for quilting.

Now they share another unique bond. It's even on display at the Dakota County Fair this year. Both grandmother and granddaughter earned Grand Champion awards for their quilting projects at this year's county fair this year.

That's pretty darned impressive, since there were 144 quilts entered in this year's quilt categories. There are three groups open to quilters: Juniors, up to age 15; open-age; and Seniors. Vetscher received the Grand Champion for the Junior level, Cornair got the same in the Seniors.

As hobbies go, the world of quilting can look pretty confusing from the outside. There are multiple patterns, all with different names. The blocks -- the scraps of material put together to create a design -- are really little more than pieces of fabric in multiple colors and varying sizes at first. Quilters have the option to hand-sew or machine sew. They can go with fabric-only designs, or they can add things like appliqués or buttons.

All it takes is a little imagination and a lot of patience.

Creative genius

Cornair has always made things. She is a former needleworks superintendent for the Dakota County Fair and started quilting about a decade ago, after retiring. A couple of years back, Cornair decided to give up her post as superintendent, but then decided she still wanted to participate in the fair. Instead of organizing the displays, she began contributing to them.

This is her third year entering items in the Dakota County Fair. Last year, she earned reserve grand champion.

She calls this year's quilt "Bursting Into Bloom." Although it has a predominantly black and white, checkered background, colorful flowers capture the attention, jumping out against the more subdued background. There are crystals in the centers of the flowers, adding an extra dimension. The entire quilt is bordered by triangle-shaped "prairie prints," also in attention-grabbing colors.

"I love combining the colors," Cornair said. "It's very creative and relaxing to me. It's fun to put the colors together and move them around. It kind of has a life of its own after a while."

Apparently, that creativity has been passed on to her granddaughter, who admits her interest started early, and it started from watching her grandmother.

At age 9, Vetscher has already made and entered three quilts. She started playing with her sister's junior-sized, toy sewing machine somewhere around age 4, then graduated to the real thing not long afterward. She started her first quilt when she was 6, and that quilt took reserve grand champion the first year she entered something in the fair contest. Her second quilt -- called a "tic tac toe" -- netted her first grand champion. This year's quilt, which features an aqua-blue, basket-weave background with colorful appliqué fish and buttons stitched on as little bubbles, was her second grand champion.

"I was a little impatient with this one," Vetscher admitted. "It just takes so long to get going."

What that means is the preparation -- the measuring and cutting of strips of fabric -- was one of the most time-consuming aspects to her project. Vetscher started her prep work before school got out. Actually sewing it took little more than a week.

This is the first year Vetscher has entered two projects. In addition to her quilt, she made a bright pink, basket-weave purse with a big, pink plastic flower on the clasp. It received a blue ribbon. Her grandmother, too, entered extra projects -- a couple knit children's sweaters -- one of which also earned a purple ribbon.

Needleworks superintendent Mary Edelman is thrilled Cornair and Vetscher can share their glories this year. Not only is it neat to know their relationship, but Edelman hopes Vetscher's success will encourage others to try needlework in the future.

"We're thrilled to have Megan, because we want to get younger people involved more," Edelman said.

All of the needleworks projects, including Cornair and Vetscher's award-winning quilts, are on display in the Creative Arts building, building No. 5, through the rest of the fair week.