Story by Shannon Dale
When the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising opens its doors to the public on Jan. 30, it will not only debut a beautiful new space, but will also unveil a unique collection of 116 miniature quilts designed and sewn by College of Health and Human Sciences alumna Lucile Hawks (M.S. home economics, ’58). The exhibition of quilts — Tiny Bits and Pieces — will feature stunning examples of Hawks’ work. Each miniature quilt is unique, and all were sewn, pieced and quilted in the basement studio of her Kansas home, the family homestead her mother bought in 1950.
Even more astounding, Hawks taught herself how to quilt when she was well into her 70s by checking out books from the library and watching her mother, who was a skilled quilter. After successfully making four full-size quilts, Hawks was intrigued by a magazine given to her by a friend that featured miniature quilts. Using her mother’s quilting frame, Lucile used fabric scraps that she found in her mother’s sewing basket, bought at rummage sales and pulled from a fabric salesman’s sample books.
Hawks’ artistic flair can be seen in the quilt patterns, which she designed and drew herself onto the quilts with a fine-point pencil before sewing them together. She often invented her own style of quilting and gave each mini-quilt its own name.
“One of the first things I taught my home economic students was how to use a thimble,” says Hawks. “I certainly have lots of practice using one myself, while hand-stitching my quilts.”
Hawks taught in the Kansas public school system for 39 years, developing her own home economics curriculum, which featured students setting up goals that they were evaluated on weekly. She expected a lot from her students, as she expected a lot from herself while working to earn her master’s in home economics at CSU. It took her four years to earn her degree by taking intensive four-week summer classes between school years.
“My time at CSU was focused on work, period. At that time we had a number of visiting professors who really were the cream of the crop and piled on the work,” says Hawks, who is now 98 years old. “I had Ms. Gustafson for Historic Costume and enjoyed her class.”
Hawks remained connected to CSU since she graduated and has been a longtime supporter of the Gustafson Gallery, an extension of the Avenir Museum, before she began donating her quilts in 2006.
“Lucile’s quilts are wonderful examples of historic as well as modern quilt patterns,” says Megan Osborne, curator of the Avenir Museum. “They have been invaluable teaching tools in the collection for many years, and there is something very fulfilling about being able to feature pieces created by an alumna.”
First displayed in Hawks’ home and at the Hiawatha Public Library in Kansas, her miniature quilts are part of the Avenir Museum’s permanent collection and will be on exhibition in The Lucile Hawks Gallery beginning Jan. 30.
Honoring the past with an eye to the future is the theme as the CSU Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising opens in January in a beautiful new facility. The grand opening has been set for Saturday, Jan. 30, from 2 – 5 p.m., at 216 E. Lake St.
Thanks to a lead gift from the Avenir Foundation and funding from other benefactors, the Avenir Museum underwent a significant transformation over the past several months. Located east of the University Center for the Arts, the museum renovated approximately 8,000 square feet in the current Avenir facility and added 10,000 square feet, allowing for two galleries, classroom and seminar space, a library, a conservation laboratory, and expanded collection storage and management areas.