Nancy Epley is a force of nature. As if being 100 years old and looking like she just walked out of a style magazine weren’t enough, the longtime Kalex resident still handcrafts the original, personalized quilts and appliqued jackets that have been her trademark for many of her ten decades on earth.

Lover of Fashion

“One of my two balconies is devoted to a sewing machine, fabric, and a bulletin board of inspiration.” Noting that store-bought garments never had enough detail to suit her, said Nancy, “I always made clothes for myself.”

“I love the feel and colors of fabric,” said the self-professed fashion lover, displaying the stunningly detailed quilt she is currently stitching without a pattern, inspired by a photograph taken by fellow resident Lad Sessions.

Beginning with the dirndl skirts she made as a young mother during WWII, Nancy’s passion for sewing and quilting unraveled only temporarily during the pandemic. But when Lad’s photo motivated her anew, she said, “I was off and running again. It’s just a whole lot of fun.”

Quilt Show

Crafted from remnants and representations of the unique things individuals love, Nancy’s custom wall hangings and jackets have adorned the homes and backs of hundreds of grateful recipients. Some of them will be coming to celebrate her work (and wearing the jackets she created for them) at the Nancy Epley Quilt Show on October 15, 2022, co-sponsored by Kalex and the Rockbridge Pieceworker’s Quilt Guild. (Invitation only)

The Secret to Longevity

When asked about her secret to long life, not to mention the keen eyes and manual dexterity required to craft her work, Nancy credits good genes and good fortune.

“How lucky can you be? It’s astounding!” said the woman whose 100th birthday on January 18 was feted with over 100 cards from the Kendal family, flowers, and a special piano concert featuring Dr. Tim Gaylard, professor of music at Lexington’s Washington and Lee University. “It was grand!”

The Road to Lexington

Born in Plainfield, New Jersey, Nancy lived in Manhattan for many years, where she was director of admissions at The Spence School for girls.

Nancy remarried a “charming guy from Great Falls, Montana,” who was asked to return to his alma mater of Washington and Lee to serve as treasurer. “It took him zero seconds to say yes!” said Nancy, and the couple of 40 years moved to the city of Lexington and built a home. Some years later, the KaLex community was being built nearby.

“Kendal grew up in our backyard, and the whole neighborhood was moving in,” explained Nancy. Eventually, she and her late husband followed suit. “My husband loved it; I love it,” said the 20-year Kalex resident. “There is an unusually nice group of interesting people here. Everyone is so charming, and we’re all on equal footing.”

Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair

While she is busily quilting, Nancy is also helping administer the 2nd Annual Kendal Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair on December 2-3 this year. (Open to the public). A former Lexington’s Artists in Cahoots member, Nancy was also in cahoots with fellow resident Ruth Tafel to get the inaugural fair off the ground two years ago.

While she demurs humbly that she is “just chiming in” on this year’s fair, there seems to be no limit to Nancy’s spirit and inspiration.

Nancy Epley