Diane Prather: The artistic practice of quilting alive and well

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Diane Prather

An article about quilting for Agriculture & Livestock? What does agriculture have to do with quilting?

Charlotte Allum, of Fort Collins, who teaches quilting classes for The Fig Leaf, a quilting store in the city, said quilting came to America with the earliest colonists.

Quilts were necessary to keep people warm.

“When the colonists came to this country,” Allum said, “they brought fabrics with them that were used to make quilts in their countries. They were usually fine fabrics such as silks, brocades and velvets.”

But after awhile, of course, these fabrics were used up, and the colonists had to adapt to using what was available in their new homeland.

That’s when agriculture came in.

The women had to rely on cotton and wool. The washable, durable cotton fabrics were homespun, cotton was formed into batting, and wool was washed and carded so it could be placed between fabrics.

Women even planted a row or two of cotton to be used in quilting.

Allum said children enjoyed the warmth of their fireplaces as they removed the seeds from the cotton and shaped it into the batting. Sometimes they missed a few seeds.

Janice Hunsaker, of Craig, remembers one of her great-grandma’s quilts that still had some seeds in the batting.

Then, according to Allum, in the late 1970s, women started making quilts again, but this time it was more of a hobby, and the quilting was used in making decorations for the home more so than to keep people warm.

“Quilting is just as strong today,” explained Allum. Quilters take classes to learn quilting techniques, buy pattern books, and form quilting groups.

An example of an active quilting group is right here in Craig. The Yampa Valley Piecemakers Quilt Guild, which has almost 40 members, is in its third year.

Janice Hunsaker, who is responsible for the guild’s publicity, said members are from Baggs, Wyo., Hayden, Craig and Steamboat Springs.

The guild meets once a month, on the third Tuesday of each month, except in December. The guild meets at 6:30 p.m. at the Hampton Inn of Craig, 377 Cedar Court.

Each month, the club features a special program, presenters often being booked up about a year in advance.

An example of a program is the one presented by Denice Knapp, who lives half a year in Steamboat Springs and the other half in South Dakota.

She showed the group how to use a Chinese technique to top stitch quilts.

Other programs include getting old quilts appraised, old piecing techniques (such as the paper piecing technique), new technology and a whole lot more.

The guild does charity work, too.

“The last time I heard, the YVPM had made over 100 cancer quilts,” Hunsaker said. “The women made them lap-size or a little larger and gave them to patients in the unit that performs cancer treatments. The YVPM also made nearly 40 doll quilts that were donated to Toys for Tots.”

At Christmas, the women in the guild made table runners that were put on the tables at Sunset Meadows. Then, a drawing was held and the women with winning numbers got to take the runners home.

The guild also has a fascinating block of the month activity.

Hunsaker explained that a committee comes up with a block and then gives lessons on how to make it. Anyone who wants to makes a block or more. These blocks are taken to the next meeting, and everyone’s name is put in a hat. The winner gets all of the blocks, sometimes enough to make a quilt.

A recent month’s pattern was “Crazy Nine.”

Officers for the guild are president Tina Smith, vice president Lorrae Moon, treasurer Debra Behringer and secretary Eva Hinkle.

Hunsaker said she has made two quilts.

“It’s a change of pace, “ she said. “It takes my mind to a different place. Quilting is a way to express one’s artistic side. There are some amazingly talented people in Craig.”

During Grand Olde West Days later this year, the Museum of Northwest Colorado will host a Western Heritage Quilt Show.

Assistant museum director Jan Gerber explained that this is a project sponsored by the museum and the local quilt guild. It will feature a contest for wall hangings and quilts in both amateur and professional classes.

Besides that, interested quilters from anywhere can enter a contest in which they make a 12 1/2-inch-by-12 1/2-inch block to commemorate Moffat County’s 100th birthday.

Behringer, guild chairwoman for this contest, said the block does not have to have “100” featured in it.

Anyone interested can obtain an entry form and contest rules from the website, www.yvpmquiltguild.com.

Entrants will receive a piece of fabric to be used somewhere within the block.

Behringer said once the blocks are judged, they will be put together to make a quilt to hang in the museum, and some of the fabric may be used in the binding or elsewhere in the quilt to provide continuity.

From the early colonists to modern times, quilting is still going strong.

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