Pastor Jack Heck walked into the Quilter’s Cottage in Kearney, Neb., and said, “Look out ladies! The rooster’s in the henhouse!” With his customary sense of humor, Jack has broken gender barriers that have kept men from participating in the traditionally female world of stitchery.
Although there are stories of men being turned away from quilters’ guild meetings in other places, Jack says in the seven years he has quilted no one ever tried to make him feel he is less skilled because he’s a man. It’s not as serious a discrimination issue as some. However, Jack agrees the reasons for his acceptance could provide insight into other realms of discrimination.
His sense of humor is one clue. He always walks into the quilt shop with a smile. “I don’t give anyone a chance to discriminate against me,” he said. “It’s partly them making me feel comfortable and partly me making them feel comfortable.”
Another reason, according to Jack, is that discrimination, in general, is rare in Kearney. “As a pastor, I’m out and about a lot. You never hear derogatory terms.”
Jack first tried sewing when his children were young and money was tight. Later, he took up quilting during part-time retirement with help from a woman in the church. He loves quilting’s technical challenges and forgoes hand quilting for quilting by machine. Just like a man, he laughed. He gives away his creations to friends and family, including his wife Charlene who doesn’t have the patience for any kind of sewing.
The county fair in Kearney hosts quilt shows a couple of times a year. Jack hasn’t entered yet, but said the time’s coming. “Quilting’s not hard,” he said, encouraging other men to try. “If you think you might like it, just give it a shot.”