The State Flowers quilt has the names and flowers of all 50 states sewn onto squares set as diamonds floating on a robin’s egg blue background

The case of the missing quilt

“Hopefully whoever has it will see this and have a conscience and return it.”  

By Sarah Pope 

The quilt could be anywhere by now. 

When Diana Reese discovered that a treasured family quilt had been accidentally donated to a thrift store in 2021, she shared her story far and wide, offering a reward of $500 for its return. Two years have passed and the quilt remains at large, but Reese has not given up hope. 

When she learned that the Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival would be held at the Overland Park Convention Center in mid-June, she decided to broadcast her quest to the quilters in attendance. Reese, who lives in Overland Park, believes the quilt was donated to a City Thrift store near where she lives. 

“I thought that (the KC Regional Quilt Fest) would be a great opportunity to reach out to these women and men involved in quilting,” Reese said. “These are people who will notice the details about a quilt and they understand the significance and the amount of work that would go into making something like that.”

She attended the festival and handed out flyers that featured a photo of the quilt, made with a pattern from Colonial Patterns, #9901 State Flowers, which was very popular when it was introduced in the mid-1900s and remains in print to this day. 

Diana Reese handed out flyers announcing a $500 reward for the return of her grandmother’s quilt.

“I could make a reproduction but I don’t want a reproduction,” she said. “I want the quilt that was made for me by my grandma.”

Molly Hundley, current president of the Quilters Guild of Greater Kansas City, one of the 14 quilting guilds that organizes the quilt festival, says it was smart of Reese to reach out to quilters. 

“We would be sick with this sort of mistake,” said Hundley, who thinks perhaps the quilt was acquired by a quilt collector or antiques dealer. 

“A lot of collectors go to thrift stores to pick up what’s been donated by the uninformed,” she said. “Hopefully whoever has it will see this and have a conscience and return it.”  

A reward is a great incentive, but Hundley said the quilters she knows wouldn’t accept it.

“It’s a family heirloom,” she said. “If (someone I knew) bought it at the thrift shop they’d say I don’t want the reward, I just want my 10 bucks I paid for it.”  

 Thrifting veteran and enthusiast Sarah Farsace has known people who have found items donated years before and think it’s possible to recover an item—especially with the reach of social media. Quilt enthusiasm has been on the rise for awhile, she explained, increasing during Covid with the emergence of the cottage core revival aesthetic, which celebrates simple living. 

“I do think that quilts evoke a feeling of comfort and home,” Farsace said. “A handmade quilt is always unique and a labor of time and love. To me, this will always make quilts endearing.”

Denise Morrison, Director of Collections and Curatorial Affairs at the Kansas City Museum, said that Reese will need to widen her audience in order to track down the quilt. 

“Younger generations don’t go ‘antiquing’ anymore, they go ‘thrifting’ and it’s not just local,” Morrison said. “Whatever town they are in they’ll look for thrift stores. So someone from another city could have realized what a prize they were buying and taken it home to Texas or St. Louis—or anywhere they live.”

Reese’s grandmother, Ruth, made the State Flowers quilt to celebrate the birth of her first granddaughter, embroidering each of the 50 state names and flowers on individual squares. Once she finished the embroidery, she constructed the quilt top by setting the finished squares on point to create the illusion of diamonds floating on a robin’s egg blue background. The finished top was huge and was likely sent to a local church group to be hand-quilted.

“I’m disappointed I don’t have the exact measurements, but it is large,” she said.

Diana Reese as a baby with her grandmother Ruth

Although her grandmother made quilts throughout her life, the State Flowers quilt is the only one that was given to Reese. Her grandmother Ruth died when Reese was still a child and most of her memories of her grandmother are related to the quilt itself. Fortunately, Reese has photos of it. The photos, in addition to her own memories, make her certain that she will be able to identify the quilt if it is returned.

Reese says that finding the quilt is not an obsession, but that she will keep looking for it. She even consulted a psychic who believes the quilt is still in the KC Metro area, purchased by someone to give to a sick friend. 

“I go in spurts,” she said of her search. “I’d love to be able to enjoy it the rest of my life and leave it to my kids. I will certainly be thrilled if it’s returned to me.”


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