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    Block by block, 85-year story is told

    A woman spent 641 1/2 hours on a memory quilt for her church’s 85th anniversary.

    By EILEEN SCHULTE

    © St. Petersburg Times, published January 13, 2001


    DUNEDIN -- The green, blue and purple quilt will never offer warmth on a cold night, but it can tell a good story.

    photo
    [Times photo: Jim Damaske]
    The maker of the masterpiece is Melba Rilott, a 32-year member of the First United Methodist Church of Dunedin, is a prolific quilter and avid researcher who is fascinated by history and genealogy.
    On the quilt you can see the history of First United Methodist Church of Dunedin unfold in pictures, scrolls, cameos, Victorian lace, tassels and fringe.

    Melba Rilott, who created the one-of-a-kind, 126-inch by 72-inch signature memory quilt to help mark the 85th anniversary of the church, said there are memories in every "block."

    It is decorated with 31 scrolls, 358 embellishments, 1,512 pieces of fabric, 26 church symbols and eight liturgical colors. The 6-pound quilt took 6411/2 hours to complete.

    On the scrolls are the names of people who have been church members for more than 50 years, and those who have participated in fundraisers.

    Oh, and it's dry-clean only.

    But the quilt probably never will get very dirty. It will be permanently displayed in a Victorian-style cabinet for the 1,200-person congregation to cherish. Church member Brian Ottoson built the cabinet, which is in Friendship Hall at the church.

    "It will never cover a body," said Rilott, laughing.

    The quilt will be dedicated during a ceremony Jan. 21 at the church.

    It features pictures of the church founders and the Library Hall where they first met, the first youth group, the first new church bus, the music ministry, the first Sunday school classes, some of which met under a camphor tree, the church building, built in 1922, special worship services and the first Easter flower cross displayed in 1934.

    "We have a photo of the first preschool circa 1953," Rilott said. "All the kids are sitting on their little chairs."

    It also goes further, depicting how the church grew through the years under the direction of various ministers. It offers insight into the roles of men and women who worshiped there through the years.

    You can see Mrs. Center and Mrs. Thomas in their long dresses with high collars. Their husbands can be seen dressed in well-brushed wool suits with tie pins and stiff collars.

    Rilott, a 32-year member of the church, is an avid researcher who is fascinated by history and genealogy. She has traced her own German family history back to the 1500s. She is a prolific quilter who also finds time to make wearable art.

    "I have 20 projects going right now," she said.

    She said the memory quilt turned out better than she planned. "This is a big quilt, and it has a place."

    One of her favorite blocks shows the church's anniversary celebration in April. The theme for the day was "New Life in the New Millennium."

    "In the corner is a dove ascending and taking off for the future," Rilott said.

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