Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 28, 2012

'Extraordinary Stitches’

“She who has the most fabric wins,” prolific quilter Jo Black Danford told friends.


BEULAH — Jo Black Danford is remembered for a patchwork of qualities by friends and family: Her smile, her humble and positive character, her devotion to family, church, school, community — and scores of quilts pieced together over 40 years.

On Sunday, 60 of those quilts will be on display at a memorial show in Benzonia to honor Danford, who died four months ago, and to raise money for one of her causes, the Benzie Central Community Educational Foundation.

The "Jo Black Danford: A Life in Extraordinary Stitches" show will be held from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Mills Community House in Benzonia.

—Her quilts are works of art," said Sue Micinski, neighbor, friend and a member of the first walking and quilting group of young moms Danford started in the 1970s.

"We wanted others to see them, too," she added. "The genius of Jo was that she had a knack for choosing well-matched fabrics, but she also made choices that had flair, added Micinski, a sixth grade teacher at Platte River Elementary School. "There's quite a range in the patterns also, from traditional to contemporary."

One definition of "patchwork" — a form of needlework used in quilting and sewing — is joining small pieces of material to make a larger piece of fabric. Its beauty comes from the colors of the individual pieces and patterns made by the arrangement of the shapes.

Danford — a mother, teacher and prolific quilter who loved travel, fabric and color — died Aug. 29 after an 18-month battle with lung cancer. She was 63. She served on the educational foundation as a director and officer from 1993 until her death.

Some quilts in the show were made by Danford for family and friends. Most are part of a huge collection in her quilting room, said Trevor Danford, her husband of 44 years.

"It's simply amazing that she could put together that many quilts," said Micinski, a teacher at Platte River Elementary School. "We all knew she quilted a lot, but we were astonished to find all of her work."

The quilts are not for sale, but fabric pieces, quilting notions and patterns plus some of her quilting books will be available for purchase. One quilt will be raffled. Suggested donation for admission is $5; a soup and salad meal will be offered separately. All proceeds will benefit the foundation.

The closet in Danford's quilting room was "solid fabric," said her husband, a retired Benzie Central teacher and counselor. Her quilting friends called the closet and its contents "Jo's stash."

"She always had the same response — 'She who has the most fabric wins,'" Micinski said.

A 1967 Benzie Central graduate, Danford earned her bachelor's degree in elementary education from Central Michigan University in 1971. Teaching kindergarten one year in Ellsworth and first grade for eight years in Beulah, she stopped teaching in 1980 when daughter, Sabra, was born. The Danfords' son, Nicholas, came along in 1985.

"She was someone who always had a smile for everyone and never said anything uncomplimentary about anybody," Trevor said. "I think that was the key to people gravitating to her."

He said he's happy she made so many quilts and gave them to friends and family.

"I think of quilts that are handed down in families as heirlooms," he said.