Sunday, December 29, 2013

Craft Fair at Alvadore

Early Saturday morning a few weeks, I packed up twenty wall quilts, a handful of potholders and a pile of scrappy bookmarks I'd made. I also had wares from a friend who'd made some wonderful (not too) rustic signs, crocheted tiaras and crowns, and a few additional items for sale. On dark, icy roads, I found my way to the Alvadore Fire Station.

I walked into a big building empty of most everything except bare tables. Oh! I had encouraged friends to come this distance to a show I thought would be full of wonderful handcrafted things, and it certainly didn't look like much.

As I began carrying in my treasures, I met others doing the same. I put up an old ladder, antique oak chair, old wood milk crate on and around the table assigned to me. Quilts were tucked into chair rungs, over the step ladder, draped across the table.

In an hour, the firehouse was filled with noise, color, activity. Doll clothes, birdhouses, Christmas decorations, wooden toys, handcrafted household goods, locally grown grains had changed the character of the recently empty structure to a busy, happy place.

I hoped to sell some quilts. But more importantly, I wanted to get the word out to quilters about our new business. (Can we call it a business before we actually have possession of the main piece of equipment?)

Many stopped by the booth, and several quilters engaged in conversation, asking about these little quilts made on my very simple little sewing machine. I shared with them about our future plans for quilting on an industrial machine. I had fun, I sold some items, I even made some new friends.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Long Time Ago

I still have my first quiltmaking book, "The Perfect Patchwork Primer" by Beth Gutcheon. My friend Michelle gave it to me as a high school graduation gift 38 years ago. Back then, very few books on the process of making quilts existed. The bicentennial of our country lay ahead, when a resurgence in this gentle art would take young American women by storm.

But in 1975, not many women wanted to spend dozens or even a hundred hours piecing bits of fabric together and quilting the top by hand when J.C. Penney sold pretty, practical comforters for 15.99 on sale. None of my neighbors, so far as I knew, made quilts. Yet I was crazy to learn how to do what the pioneer women had done (though for them the motivation was survival):  produce a quilt.

Perhaps Mrs. Wearin's quilt was my inspiration. Maybe I saw some in a museum. My family didn't own any old quilts. But Michelle knew about my growing interest and presented me with this paperback treasure.

I can still remember many graduation gifts. But this book is likely the only one I still possess. It was indeed a primer, and taught me what I needed to get started. Many  simple drawings and a small handful of black and white photos accompanied the easily-read text. I devoured the book, probably read every word many times over.

A few days ago, while attempting to thin out the scads of junk in our over-full basement, I came across a small muslin and blue-grey wallhanging, machine-pieced and hand-quilted. Was it my first project? I don't remember. It smelled musty. It survived washer and dryer and came out smelling fresh. Not beautiful, but with straight, neat seams and tiny but imperfect
stitches. It's just big enough to cover my dog on a cold winter's night.

I've come a good way since Michelle gave me that classic little book. We all begin somewhere, and those mid-1970s were the start of my long-time love of quilting.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Everyone Has a Quilt Story -- Denise

As a young teenager, I won a quilt in a raffle. It was an odd color of pink, put together with scraps of old shirts, eyelet, dress fabrics, probably a little polyester in the mix. The stitching was large, lines not completely straight. My parents were more excited than I -- I tried to trade a friend for something I preferred over my winnings.

Dad put his foot down. An elderly community member, Mrs. Wearin, had made this coverlet. I was going to keep my prize. (She and her husband had been my 4-H rock collecting club leaders.)

Cora Wearin, as a toddler, had traveled with her family to Oregon in a covered wagon. She grew up to travel by car along the new McKenzie Highway in front of her home and see airplanes fly overhead. A decade or two before her death, she watched men walk on the moon. She saw so much in her long life.

Her story connects me to a different era, to when people moved from place to place by foot or horse power or steam train. Practicality required every bit of usable fabric be turned into bed covers. Quilting was anything but a hobby. 

Mrs. Wearin still made quilts by hand in the 1970s, when J.C. Penney sold bedding inexpensively. She must have done so out of enjoyment. I used the quilt for many years until it became threadbare. Now it hangs on a stand in our hallway.

I rarely think twice about hopping into my car to go to a quilt guild meeting or fabric store. I have the luxury of purchasing yardage strictly for quilt projects. No old scraps or well-used shirting for me. And some of my finished projects will never warm my bed. They may end up as wall art.

Sometimes when I walk by Mrs. Wearin's old pink quilt, now forty years old and well-worn in places, I remember the connection I have to her. Though she's gone now and our lives were very different, we are linked by community and beauty, practicality and skill. We both have been a part of creating with our hands and leaving something for generations to follow.

What's your quilt story?

Friday, December 6, 2013

We've Started Quail's Nest Quiltworks! -- Tom

Welcome, readers, to Quail's Nest Quiltworks' first blog entry. Denise will do most of the posting and I (Tom) will show up now and then. Just a quick summary of how we arrived at our recent decision to start Quail's Nest Quiltworks. In early October, Denise approached me about the possibility of starting a long-arm quilting business. I quizzed her about it and we decided to treat the idea seriously. About a week or so later we attended the MQX (Modern Quilt Expo) in Portland and tried out several long-arm quilting machines. We both had fun doodling a few stitches and picking the minds of experts.

We left the expo excited and scheduled an all-day long-arm quilting class with master quilter, author, conference speaker, Sheila Snyder. Though our brains were tired by the end of the day, we remained enthusiastic. We prayed a lot and asked our church home group to pray for us that we would make a wise decision. Also, after quizzing several quilters, we concluded there was a good market for this type of service.

On November 14 we traveled to McMinnville and visited Jack Boersma, who showed us a Gammill Optimum Plus stored in his warehouse. On November 15 we made a definite decision to start the business and to purchase the Gammill.

So here it is, December 6, and we're aiming to have the machine set up in our shop before the end of February. Can't wait! We plan on posting blogs twice a week. Keep in touch.