Jamie Bursell learned how to quilt from her grandmother, and the first project she completed was made out of old clothes.
Hand-me-downs were a common material back in the day. But since quilting's re-emergence in the mid-1970s, the art form has expanded into specialty stores with imported threads, giant quilting-galas with attendees from multiple states, and of course, its own niche on the Internet. There are more than 1,000 quilting stores on the Web.
Nowadays, some computerized sewing machines cost as much as a small car. Old machines, the small Singer Featherweights in particular, are still the model of choice for Juneau's Capital City Quilters. The group includes more than 100 members, three of which are men, and will hold its annual quilting show this weekend.
"We won't know what shows up until the day of the show," guild co-chairman Joanne Wilder said. "There are always some that jump out of the woodwork and absolutely blow you away. We have a guild that seems to have a high caliber of creativity that covers the whole spectrum."
"There will definitely be some surprises," said Bursell, also a co-chairman.
The show runs from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m. Saturday, March 12, and 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. Sunday, March 13, at Centennial Hall. The public, and the jury, will vote on its favorite quilts Saturday. Ribbons will be handed out Sunday.
Admission is free, and is paid for by the event's silent quilt auction. That lasts until 4 p.m. Sunday. The auction covers the guild's expenses for the year.
"It's not a juried show like they have in bigger cities where you have to submit something and they'll tell you if it's accepted," co-chairman Fabienne Peter-Contesse said. "We accept all quilts that are made to a certain standard. It may be something that somebody has really put a lot of time into, or it may be something that it was fun to make and they want to show people."
"It could also be something that they've been working on for the last five years, and they finally got it done," co-chairman Mary Kay Palmateer said. "A term you'll hear a lot of the guild members use is UFO, which means an Unfinished Object. A lot of us have those in our collection."
The show will include quilting demonstrations. And, as part of the tradition, the guild will create a quilt for a nonprofit charity, then auction it off. This year, ORCA is the beneficiary.
The show has judges, but there are no cash awards. There are six categories of quilts, with a Best of Show award for People's Choice and Judge's Choice. Guild members will be on KINY on Saturday morning.
"Quilting is our way of expressing art," Wilder said. "People don't realize how much work goes into some of these quilts. At my office, I showed some people what I was putting in the show, and they said, 'What would you sell that for? A couple hundred?' I said, 'No, close to $2,000.' People think cotton fabric, and they think cheap, but it's $10-$11 a yard, and with a bed quilt you're looking at 10 or more yards."
Anyone is welcome to join the Capital City Quilters guild. The group has two retreats to the Shrine of St. Therese during the year, and monthly 15-hour quilting sessions (9 a.m. to midnight) at St. Paul's.
For more information about joining, ask a guild member at the show.
Korry Keeker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.