Her fingers work quickly over the soft, colorful cotton. Dip, lift, tap, dip, lift, tap. It makes a regular rhythm. Then,  s-l-i-d-e, as she pulls the thread through. The arching designs of a repeating scallop appear quickly as Lula Hudspeth’s fingers keep up their dance over the log cabin rose quilt that she is stitching by hand.

“I grew up quilting,” Lula said. Her mother, grandmother and all her female relatives quilted. “I started quilting seriously about 17 years ago when I retired from school teaching.”

Originally a Home-Ec teacher, she moved on to Elementary School and settled in the third grade. “Times tables and cursive writing,” Lula quips with a smile. Then she turns to the visitors in her quilt shop, greeting them and explaining how she marks the scallops on the quilt with an air erase pencil.

Bill Hudspeth, Lula’s husband of 47 years, picks up the story of their family where Lula left off. His parents were originally from the Marshall and St. Joe area.

“All my people come from here,” he said. “My grandfather taught school in the Ozarks for 45 years.”

His great grandfather on his mother’s side was from the Marshall area. His name was Smith Ramsey and he was a member of the Arkansas Peace Society, also known as the Yellow Rag Boys. In 1862 this group of men who had chosen not to take sides in the Civil War were rounded up in Searcy County. They were marched in chains to Little Rock. There they were forced to join the Confederate Army or be hung for treason. Ramsey joined and was killed in Corinth, Mississippi.

Bill’s grandfather moved to Oklahoma to teach. His momma taught there too in the 1920’s. Lula’s folks are from Tennessee, but by the time Lula and Bill met in church, both families were living in Peoria, Arizona.

Lula and Bill have been married 47 years now. They have two daughters and four grand children, two girls and two boys. Most of the year, the Hudspeths live on their farm in Oklahoma. This gives Lula the longest commute of any Ozark Folk Center crafter. However, they also have a farm in Searcy County.

“My mother-in-law was from Searcy County. When she was widowed, she bought a farm planning to move there. She didn’t get to, but we did,” explained Lula. Her son-in-law told her about the Ozark Folk Center and she came in to interview with Kay Thomas about eight years ago.

“I was hoping she wouldn’t get the job,” said Bill, smiling, but he was happy for her when she did. “I’ve  always tried to support her and she enjoys it. It’s not the money, it’s doing what you love.”

Lula still loves sharing quilting with visitors to the Folk Center. Though she does some machine quilting, Lula’s joy is the neat, precise stitching that she does by hand on her colorful quilts.

 Her hand stitching is precise and her designs are uniquely beautiful. Lula has an incredible sense of what colors will work together. She is able to use the combination of piecing bright colorful patterns with stitching elegant designs that make quilts that are clearly hers.

“When I finished my first quilt,” said Lula, “it was hand quilted. I worked on it and stitched in feathers and fancy designs. I really worked hard on it.”

Then she took it to Texas to show it to her mother. Her mother peered closely at the quilt. Turned it over and looked at the piecing, binding and stitching. She didn’t say anything until she folded the quilt and handed it back to Lula. Then she looked at her and said, “Little Miss Perfect.”

Lula smiles at the memory. “Then I knew I did a good job.”

Stop by the Quilt Shop at the Ozark Folk Center and see Lula’s quilt in progress.