Quilters Hall of Famer Mimi Dietrich is one “Hon” of an appliqué quilter!

It was fun meeting Mimi Dietrich and her family at the historic Marie Webster House in Marion, Indiana where she was recently inducted into the Quilters Hall of Fame.
I confess: I had never heard of Mimi or her work so I Googled her name to learn we are kindred spirits in the love of hand appliqué. With over 40 years of teaching experience and 17 quilting books under her belt, she was also honored as the International Association of Professional Quilters Teacher of the Year for 2013. Her teaching isn’t just in the traditional classroom: she has over 25,250 online students too.

Now Mimi hails from Baltimore so it would only seem natural that she would be drawn to appliqué Baltimore Album quilts. These finely stitched quilts of the mid-19th century in green, red and white feature artistic designs including baskets, vases, wreaths, vines, ribbons, hearts etc. Think of each individual block as a page in a book and you know why they are called album quilts.

Mimi Dietrich’s take on the traditional appliqué album block is a visual feast!Looking at the schedule, I was surprised to see Mimi’s walk-thru was not going to be at the traditional location but at the Marie Webster House. Mimi was at last year’s Celebration and knew this old beautiful 19th century mansion with its rich woodwork and high ceilings was the perfect setting for her quilts. Since it would be impossible to tour with a large group, capacity groups of quilters enjoyed a lecture and learned the inspiration behind many of her masterpiece quilts. I’d like to give a special shout-out to her 50 Baltimore quilt groupies who traveled on the Baltimore Express bus to be a part of her special weekend.

Quilt designs tend to morph over time and the Baltimore Album quilt is no exception. The standard designs can be enhanced by adding three-dimensional effects: A butterfly, rose buds, a blossom…and then you can “Mimi”ize the traditional block so our quilting grandmothers wouldn’t even recognize it at first, might not approve of it, but deep down would have to love it!

Baltimore Hon is a colorful rendition of the traditional block. Designed by Mimi, quilted by Maria O’Haver and inspired by Mary Lou Weidman (It takes a village) pays homage to the Baltimore Hon. Now Baltimore is famous for their Hons, and they celebrate them at Honfest (www.hunfest.net). To put “Hon” into context would be: “Would you like another cup of coffee, Hon?”

Now this Hon hails from the 1950s with her beehive hairdo, bejeweled cats-eye glasses, ruby slippers and leopard print belt, but this “album block” also salutes the best of Baltimore: crab cake (state food), black-eyed susans (state flower) Ravens and Orioles (sports teams-but no Colt in sight!) pink flamingo (a nod to Baltimore native John Water’s film) and row houses. Elements of traditional album quilts include the use of flowers, leaves, birds and her bee-sting heart-shaped mouth. The buttons, bees, ladybugs and flowers add another dimension bringing it all to life.

Mimi’s brothers John and Tom regaled me with stories of their sister’s quilt travels and adventures. One took place in a hotel elevator with the Lynyd Skynrd Band. She was checking out the appliqué work on their black jackets and sweetly asked if they were taking her quilt class. One of the members turned around and said, “No mam”, but my granny: she made lots of quilts.” Obviously he wasn’t from Baltimore as he didn’t “hon” her!

Mimi is now back home in Baltimore gearing up for her next year-long master quilt class. Her love of designing, quilting and teaching knows no bounds. You can learn more about Mimi and her quilts at mimidietrich.com
LOCAL QUILT SHOW: Be sure to support the Pieceful Quilters as they hold their first quilt show at the Monroeville Public Library on August 4-7. You can admire quilts, vote for People’s Choice and visit the vendors’ booths only on August 7 at the Monroeville United Methodist Church. Admission is free.

Lois Levihn is owner of Born Again Quilts where quilts are bought, sold and restored. Located at 4005 South Wayne Ave., the studio is open from 5:30p-7p on Wednesdays and 9a-2p on Saturdays. She can be reached at 260-515-9446 or bornagainquilts@frontier.com.

Lois Levihn

She is the author of the "Around the Frame" quilting column. She is a graduate of Wayne HS. Quilts have always been important to her, she loves the stories surrounding them, the techniques used in making them, & restoring them. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer