Madeleine Vail designs and creates quilts for income and pleasure. Quilting provides an important creative and social outlet and also gives her something to look forward to, she said.

Tamera Manzanares/courtesy

Madeleine Vail designs and creates quilts for income and pleasure. Quilting provides an important creative and social outlet and also gives her something to look forward to, she said.

Aging Well: Painting with fabric: Quilting can bring income, pleasure

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Local guilds

Local quilting guilds are open to quilters of all skill levels and anyone interested in quilting:

- The Delectable Mountain Quilt Guild hosts guest speakers and quilting experts as well as workshops. The guild meets at 6:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month at the Steamboat Springs Community Center. Guests are welcome (a $3 guest fee may apply). For more information about membership and events, visit www.dmqg.org.

- The Yampa Valley Piecemakers Quilt Guild in Craig provides opportunities to learn more about quilting and contribute to quilt projects for a variety of community causes. The guild will hold an auction fundraiser in September to help pay for guest speakers and instructors. For more information, call Roberta Ahlstrom at 824-4617 or Linda Pinnt at 824-5219.

Quilting classes

Colorado Northwestern Community College offers quilting classes with instructor Linda Pinnt beginning in September. Registration is free for Moffat County residents 62 and older. For more information, call 824-1135 or visit www.cncc.edu/admi..., and click on Craig Campus Senior Citizen Community Ed.

A complex array of red, orange and rust tones mesmerize while telling the story of a devastating wildfire.

The elaborate patterns are pieced together in a quilt inspired by the Hinman fire near Clark seven summers ago. The piece, which hangs in the Steamboat Lake State Park visitor center, was designed and created by Jo Morrison and Jo Stack.

Invoking beauty and awe, the quilt is one of many examples of how the craft can be a profound expression of creativity and emotion.

Quilting long has been a popular pastime, particularly among older adults with time to indulge new interests and expand social circles.

Quilting guilds, classes, workshops and exhibits make the Yampa Valley fertile ground for discovering, refining and personalizing a craft that many describe as addicting.

"There's nothing I'd rather be doing," said Madeleine Vail, who quilts in a spacious studio near Clark. The bright space is a welcome window into the quilting process.

Tools of the trade - large cutting mats, rotary cutters and plastic rulers of multiple shapes and sizes - hang neatly among huge tables.

Vail uses two long commercial sewing machines to stitch large quilt tops - her own projects as well as others' creations - to batting and backing.

And, of course, there is color: stacks of folded fabrics, threads, embellishments and multiple projects, including examples of patterns Vail designs and sells.

Earlier in the day, a group of her friends visited the studio, exploring every nook and cranny with surprising interest.

"They were so excited; it really made me feel good," Vail said.

Whether shopping for and piecing together fabric, sharing ideas or visiting shows and exhibits, the camaraderie among those who quilt is a big reward.

"Quilting is a great way to find people that like to do what you like to do," Vail said.

Linda Pinnt, of Craig, guesses she has been quilting for about 20 years.

Her foray into the quilting world began with quilting blocks she found in her late mother's belongings.

"I thought, 'I'm going to finish these," and that's how I got hooked," said Pinnt, who was so immersed in her new hobby that she insisted on hauling her great-grandmother's treadle sewing machine into her husband's hunting camps.

From her first crooked patchwork quilt made from old dresses and work shirts, Pinnt's skill has evolved into a passion that has further connected her to her family and community.

Pinnt's 9-year-old grandson Ty recently won a blue ribbon for a quilt he entered in the Moffat County Fair. Pinnt introduced him to quilting at the age of 3, when he sat on the floor picking out fabrics for new quilts.

In addition to helping start a local quilting guild with others in her community, Pinnt has connected with quilters from across the world.

It all started when Pinnt set out to make a pink quilt for a family member diagnosed with cancer. Pinnt advertised for pink fabric on a quilting Web site and received scraps and from as far away as England, Norway and Australia.

"It was like Christmas at my house," said Pinnt, who had so much fabric left over that she and members of her quilting guild continue to make pink quilts for local cancer patients.

Those who quilt also revel in the creativity, anticipation, emotional expression and sense of accomplishment involved in making a quilt.

From traditional patterned quilts to art quilts adorned with beads and other materials, there are no creative bounds to quilt making.

A newer trend called journal quilts encourages quilters to create a letter-size piece each month. Designs may reflect a new quilting technique or emotion a person is experiencing at the time.

"If there's something you need to get out, that is a good way to do it," said Vail, noting that even following a pattern or kit involves various steps of personal expression.

Potential cognitive benefits of learning new skills has attracted the interest of researchers who suspect tackling learning curves can help keep the brain sharp.

Almost anybody can learn how to quilt. Even those who have never sewed but are willing to practice using a basic sewing machine can become experts.

Vision changes should not deter a person from pursuing quilting. There are many tools, such as special lights and magnifiers that can make the process easier.

"If they want to do it, they can," Vail said.

Tamera Manzanares writes for the Aging Well program and can be reached at tmanzanares@nwcovna.org or 871-7606. Aging Well, a division of Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, is a community-based program of healthy aging for adults 50 and older. For more information or to view past articles, visit www.agingwelltoday.com.

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