Men can quilt, too
Quilting may be a woman’s world, but Gary Davis has found his niche. The Woodside Plantation resident calls the thick bed covers that he makes “man quilts.”
Instead of flowers, butterflies and little girls with big bonnets, Davis’ work focuses on themes such as Harley-Davidson, NASCAR and Coca-Cola.
“It’s stuff the average guy would like,” he said.
Some of Davis’ creations have won blue ribbons in the Aiken County Quilt Show. One, featuring American flags, is currently on display at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon.
“A quilt is a pretty unique product,” Davis said. “In fact, every quilt that’s made is unique. There are no two that are exactly alike. Even if you make a quilt from a pattern, there is something different about it from another quilt that is made from the same pattern.”
Davis, 67, is a chemical engineer. He retired from his job at the Savannah River Site in 2011. Even though Davis has gone back there to work part-time under contract, he still has plenty of time to quilt.
“I work on some of them while I’m sitting in front of the TV and watching a football game,” Davis said.
Davis has been quilting since the early 1990s. He got started at the urging of his wife, Donna, who earned multiple blue ribbons for her work and is a member of the Carolina Pine Quilters and the American Quilter’s Society.
“She got interested in quilting, and she wanted me to get involved and help her design some things,” Davis said. “As I got more into it, I enjoyed being able to do something with her, and I enjoyed the creative process. I also liked being able to make some really cool gifts for people. We have five children, and each of them has a quilt made by me.”
While training to be an engineer, Davis learned how to do technical drawings, and that knowledge turned out to be an asset in quilting. At the start of each project, Davis sketches his design on graph paper.
“With some of these quilts, it’s a trial and error process,” Davis said. “You think, ‘That might look good,’ but then when you get it all laid out, you say, ‘Naw, that ain’t it.’”
Davis has completed more than 20 comforters.
“A full size bed quilt takes me roughly 80 hours to design and make,” he said.
Some of Davis’ quilts are hand-stitched and some are machine-stitched.
“T-shirt quilts are my specialty,” Davis said. “I get a lot of the T-shirts I use at garage sales and thrift shops.”
One of the quilts Davis is especially proud of features about 160 patches that he collected and sewed onto blocks of material. His favorite is the American Flag-themed quilt that is being displayed at the Eisenhower Medical Center.
“I named it ‘God Bless America’ because it’s patriotic,” Davis said.
Another recent creation, called “Carolina Comfort,” is an entry in this year’s Aiken County Quilt Show, and can be viewed at the Aiken County Historical Museum until Sunday. The quilt’s materials include fabric with University of South Carolina logos printed on it that Davis purchased at a Hobby Lobby store.
“My wife and I have made baby quilts together, and we did a quilt as a wedding gift for one of our daughters together,” Davis said. “She is much better with colors than I am.”
Davis’s next project probably will have a military theme.
“Our oldest grandson is going into the Air Force in January, so I want to make him a T-shirt quilt or a patch quilt,” Davis said.
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.