Ask a quilter why they enjoy sewing hundreds of pieces of colored fabric together in a creative design and you’re likely to receive a reply that waxes philosophical.
There’s love in every stitch.
“When you decide to make a quilt for someone, you get to spend time with your memories of that person,” said Judy Kraft of Svensen, Oregon, who has been quilting for 40 years.
“You stitch your love into the quilt for them. When you make them for family members, I can’t just be there to hug them to death, but I can tell them to wrap themselves in my quilt — and that’s my hug.”
Kraft is not alone. As an active member of the Peninsula Quilt Guild, she and other members celebrate their artwork and creativity year-round with instructive gatherings and opportunities to share ideas and skills.
This year is notable in that the Guild will host its 25th annual show in Ilwaco March 20-22. Guild members are talking about it now because they want community members to put the date on their calendars.
Each year, the group hangs about 120 quilts at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum, said Guild President Magen Michaud. “We are kicking off a celebration of 25 years,” she said. “There is a good level of excitement. We are working on it — it will be fabulous.”
Janet King of Surfside, who was president of the Guild in 2000, was one of about 10 pioneers. It began quarter of a century ago, when Karen Snyder, who owned Anna Lena’s quilt (and fudge) store in downtown Long Beach, linked up with Melinda Crowley, Jan Lindsley and Bev Wakeman.
Remarkably they put together the first show with only a couple of months of planning (which is why the upcoming show is the 25th, but 2021 is the 25th anniversary of the Guild).
“They came up with 60 quilts in two months,” said Michaud, who moved to the Peninsula later. “It just took off from there.”
As well as a display of completed quilts, members combine forces to produce a quilt that is raffled for charity. About 20 members are already working on the 2021 raffle quilt, which will feature a stars design.
King, an art major in college, raised nine children and found oil painting was near impossible. “It was not optimal around little children,” she said, chuckling at the understatement. After working on mosaics, she switched her energy to quilting. “I learned to sew when I was a little kid from my grandmother and created most of my own clothes,” she recalled.
Her biggest joy? “I’m a color person. I am certainly not a beige person! There’s too much of beige in the world.”
Members savor the camaraderie of quilting, said Gloria Park, another past president. “One of the reasons I like quilt making is the association with the women. I love the friends — the caring in the group is indescribable.”
Park operated a quilt store in West Linn, Oregon, for nine years and used to teach classes. She cherished the reaction of her customers to bolts on display racks. “It’s tactile. People would come in and touch the fabric. ‘Oh!’ they would go, ‘oh!’ And touching an old quilt that has been washed and loved just speaks to my heart.”
Quilting has a long history of intricate designs in Europe, especially in Victorian England. In American history, quilts have preserved stories, most notably of the Underground Railroad and Native American heritage.
In tough economic times, leftover clothing has been repurposed into quilts. “I love the fact that women for millennia have made quilts for their families to keep them warm,” Park said. “That’s all about the women caring for and loving their family.”
She became a part-time Peninsula resident in 2008 and moved to the beach full time in 2013. When she set up home in Long Beach, she designed her guest bedroom with a fold-away bed so it could be more frequently be used as a studio. She has six sewing machines. “I can’t be without fabric and sewing machines!”
Terry Weeks shares that enthusiasm. The Long Beach resident used to endure dreary winters in the northeast corner of Washington state. “I lived in Colville, so any kind of the color in the middle of winter is great!” she laughed.
Her career as a civil engineer instilled the mathematical attraction of creating quilts. “I love the challenge of wanting to know how to get there when you are designing own quilts,” she said, referring to computer drafting technology. “I am a very patient person.”
Weeks points to guild members’ variety of experience. “We have people who are themselves at square one and expert quilters,” she said. “Everybody has a different piece of the pie.”