Town of Windsor Birthday Quilt

The Press Democrat

By MALLORY GIUNCHIGLIANI / Towns Correspondent

Seven years ago, Windsor resident Nicole Cowlin wanted to expand her online fabric business. She contacted Glenda Castelli to find out if she could set up a booth at the Windsor Farmers Market, but because her product wasn’t agricultural, she couldn’t.

In the process Cowlin, 43, and Castelli found they had something in common: They both loved to quilt and decided to start a quilt show in the Windsor area.

Neither had any idea what was involved, but with the help of the Quilters Guild, they put together a show in just three months. The quilt and flower show has been going strong ever since, on the first Sunday in July.

This year, the quilt show coincided with Windsor’s 20th anniversary as an incorporated town. No official celebration was planned, but Cowlin wanted to do something to honor her hometown and to repay the individuals and businesses who had helped her a year earlier when she was diagnosed with colon cancer.

“How can we do more?” she asked. A quilt seemed the logical answer.

Cowlin now owns Material Girl Fabrics in the Windsor Town Green, where she teaches sewing and quilting classes, designs original quilts and restores vintage quilts.

She has long been involved with the American Cancer Society and has sold quilts to benefit that organization as well as Windsor schools and other groups. She had the idea to create one that would celebrate Windsor and also help raise money for cancer research.

Her original plan was a 5- by 7-foot quilt with 25-30 squares, with Windsor residents and businesses purchasing squares for $35 each. They could choose a design that celebrated a piece of life in Windsor or have Cowlin design their squares.

While waiting for the idea to catch on, Cowlin created squares commemorating parks, schools and other Windsor landmarks. One celebrates Windsor’s summer Movies on the Green with popcorn patterned fabric, for example.

As word of mouth spread, more businesses and families got involved. Former Mayor Marjorie Smith designed and created the centerpiece, a birthday wish that includes a tree and fireworks. Other squares include a tribute to late volunteer firefighter Milo Strawn, a history of town mayors, the American Cancer Society’s slogan, and a pie that celebrates the town’s 2005 Guinness Book of World Records title for the largest pumpkin pie.

After paying for the cost of materials, Cowlin had approximately $250 left to donate to the American Cancer Society.

Cowlin has lived in Windsor for about 14 years, but said this project helped her learn more about the town, its history and its residents. “I like my little community,” she said. “The police know everybody’s names. It’s quaint.”

For her effort, Cowlin was recognized at the Aug. 15 Town Council meeting by Mayor Deborah Fudge, who also quilts and easily recognized the amount of effort involved in Cowlin’s project.

“It took her a long time and a great deal of work,” Fudge said. “To give so much of herself for this town, it’s incredible. I couldn’t think of a better way to recognize Windsor. It’s who we are.”

Cowlin’s quilt now belongs to the town and is displayed in the Town Council’s meeting room in the Civic Center, but she isn’t done with it.

It has grown to 45 squares and is about the size of a queen-sized throw. “If we get more blocks, we’ll make it bigger,” Cowlin said.

She is still accepting donations and designs for squares, and will add them to the quilt in time for next summer’s quilt show.

For more information, visit materialgirlfabric.com or call Cowlin at 836-0114.