June 23, 1931 – April 6, 2012
Elizabeth Merkel, known as Betty to her friends and neighbors, taught Sierra Vista how to quilt. She played a signifiant role in founding Hummingbird Stitchers Quilt Guild in 1978. The Guild remains a vital, active group, now over 30 years old.
Betty owned and operated a quilt shop, The Quilter’s Outpost, from 1981 until 2003. The shop shifted from her home to various storefronts in the community, but was considered the local source for quilters. It was often the only quilt shop in the area as well. Through the shop and her home, Betty taught all manner of classes in quilting. She worked diligently at learning all the latest tools and techniques and generously passed on her learning to her customers and friends.
For her quilts, Betty was honored as the 1995 Winter Arts Festival Artist of the Year by the Sierra Vista Arts and Humanities Commission. As part of this recognition, a one-woman show was staged. She donated one of her quilts to the Buena Vista High School Library where it still hangs with a commemorative plaque.
In accepting her recognition, Betty reflected on how quilting had changed, especially with the invention of the rotary cutter and mat. Before that, quilters made templates from cardboard, traced the shapes on to fabric, and cut each with scissors. Always on the lookout for an inexpensive source for cardboard, “Quilters, said Betty, “ate a lot of cereal!”
Health issues forces Betty to stop teaching in 2001, but she hasn’t stopped quilting. In 2005, she formed an informal group with friends where she is working to complete the unfinished projects of a lifetime of quilting…and starting new ones as well!