Halls of color

Capital City Quilters' annual show this weekend features old craft in new century

Posted: Thursday, March 08, 2001

Quilt 2001

When: 10am to 5 pm Saturday, 11am to 5pm Sunday

Where: Centennial Hall

Cost: Free

Juneau quilter Sally Dwyer has seen her craft come a long way in 17 years. She remembers the dark age of double-knit polyester, back in the mid-1980s.

"The stores were filled with polyester blends, which is terrible. For quilts you need 100 percent cotton," she said. "It was very hard to find fabric. Everybody's quilts were the same, because we all had the same fabric."

Dwyer and two friends organized the Capital City Quilters in 1984. The guild's first quilt show, in an empty storefront in Nugget Mall, was a far cry from the rich array displayed in recent years at Centennial Hall.

"There was not one finished quilt," she said. "We hung tops. We didn't know how to finish, but we knew how to piece tops. We were still learning out of books."

Last year's quilt show drew 1,400 people. This weekend, the guild's 16th annual show will feature more than 120 fullsize quilts. The free show features a silent auction for small quilts, demonstrations and "guided tours" of the quilts. There even will be an unfinished quilt on display, but this time it's purposefully incomplete to demonstrate the steps of the quilting process.

"Sheila Box has made our visual aid," Dwyer said. "It's a quilt that shows the stages from beginning to end. People can see the guts and parts at all different stages."

Dwyer will create fabric stained glass, a quilting technique that evokes the patterns of stained glass. Throughout the weekend, members of the guild will demonstrate a variety of styles and techniques.

Quilter Cindy Moore, the president of the guild, said quilts range from the artistic to the practical.

"They've come a long way from being made out of leftover shirts," Moore said. "Some are works of art that you wouldn't consider using. Others are made with the specific purpose to be used, to be dragged around by little kids, to be kept warm with."

She said quilting used to be thought of as a poor person's hobby.

"The affluent did needlepoint. It was considered more elegant. It was prestigious to buy a blanket," she said.

Now quilting can be an expensive hobby. In recent years, she's seen a wealth of fine fabrics become available, beautiful materials from Africa and Japan. And although quilting can be done on simple, even antiquated sewing machines, many quilters spring for Berninas - which Moore called the Cadillac of sewing machines.

Moore has been with the Juneau guild about two years, and she was with the Ketchikan guild for four years before that.

"No matter where you go, you meet kindred spirits," she said. "You walk into a room of quilters, you walk into a room of friends. Immediately. It's really a nice thing. I have friends all over the country now due to quilting."

The 130 members of the local guild meet once a month. They sponsor workshops with nationally known quilters and host two weekend-long retreats each year at the Shrine of St. Theresa. They also organize community sewing projects and each year create a large themed quilt that is auctioned off to raise money for a local nonprofit.

Members of the guild will be on hand this weekend to offer advice on sewing and quilting and to share ideas.

"After the quilt show we're all going to go home with a thousand ideas and want to start a thousand new projects," Moore said. "It's so inspiring."

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