New Orleans House Project

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Prodigy Parrothead Project

In a previous post, I alluded to my stash of tropical fabrics, some of which went into my Four-Patch Parrot Quilt.  Much of that tropical fabric stash goes back to the early 1990s, when personal computers and Gulf & Western music collided to make a magical signature quilt!

Back in the early days of personal computers - when a modem was considered high tech - a group of fun-minded people met through a computer billboard service known as Prodigy.

These folks were attracted to a bulletin board topic called Parrothead Madness, drawn by their affinity for the music of singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett.  As friendships formed through online messages (no online chat functions at this time!) about Mr. Buffett's music and all things related, a plan was eventually formed to hold a meet-up in Key West, Florida.  The date was set well in advance, prompting plenty of planning and anticipation on the bulletin board.

I thought a signature friendship quilt would be a great way to commemorate this historic occasion.  The quilt would be raffled off during the visit to Key West, and the proceeds would all be donated to Save the Manatee, an organization Mr. Buffett helped establish in 1981.

Members of the Prodigy Parrothead Maddness board were invited to participate by sending me a half yard of a tropical fabric of their choice.  Yes, half-yard cuts are a huge amount of fabric, but fat quarters were essentially unheard of at that time (especially at chain fabric stores where I knew most of the fabrics would be purchased) and I thoroughly dislike quarter-yard cuts.

I pieced 25-block stars using the donated fabrics and white muslin, keeping the centers of the stars white so they could be filled with signatures, etc.  Each person who sent fabric received a pieced block by return mail, along with instructions for adding their artwork.  I even sent a block to Jimmy Buffett and asked for his autograph.

Eventually, a happy, gaudy, tropic collection of autographed/decorated blocks was assembled.  I found a fantastic fuchsia print for the sashing and quilted the blocks in a star pattern using silver metallic thread.  There was just enough time to enter the quilt in my local guild's quilt show before it made the trip to Key West.  I was stunned to receive an award in the Collaborative Quilt category and a Special Judge's Award for use of color!

Finally arriving in Key West, the quilt was seen in person for the first time by the Prodigy Parrotheads in attendance.  The folks at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Club hosted a party for the online feathered fans and the quilt was on display.

Yikes!  I can't believe this is the only full-size color picture I own of the quilt!

Many and more raffle tickets were sold, as everyone fell under the happy influence of the quilt (or was it the margaritas?).  Legendary Key West saloon-keeper and all-round character Captain Tony did the honors and drew the winning raffle ticket.  My memory is hazy, but I do remember a very nice monetary donation was made to Save the Manatee from the quilt raffle proceeds.

The Quilt-Maker, the Quilt-Winner & Captain Tony! (photo by Eric Ilasenko)
Even after making all 25 parrothead blocks, you can imagine how much tropical fabric I had left-over.  It was the beginning of love affair with tropical fabric and a never-ending stash!


  1. I remember all of that, sorta.

  2. I wuz there, in Key West. I had a little more hair, and yours was a little darker, Tmann.

  3. I was there, I had a little more hair and mine was MUCH DARKER than it is now :-) I also had red framed glasses, not cataracts :-)

  4. I too remember a lot of that.....funny though I can't remember yesterday..... :-)