Sew many quilts, so little time to show them

Annual quilt show featuring about 150 works ends today

Posted: Sunday, March 12, 2000

At the Quilt 2000 show, it's easy to tell who finds flannel cozy, who cottens up to plaids and who goes ape over blue.

Quilt lovers flocked to Centennial Hall Saturday to ogle the 145 examples of fabric art. Some admirers took notes, other snapped photos. A handful of the quilts are antiques, and an additional 26 miniatures are being auctioned.

Quilts sing of home to Larry Jones. That's why he visits the show every year.

Jones spent his younger years in Virginia and North Carolina, a region he describes as ``a quilting mecca.''

``I come here for the memories. I realize this is a big part of my history - the wind rattling the window frames and all of the women standing around a big room with a 12- by 12-foot frame, and everybody stitching,'' Jones said, drawing his hand high in the air as if pulling a long thread taut.

This year's show includes traditional patterns such as ``Wedding Ring'' and ``Dresden Plate,'' and innovations like ``Three Blind Mice'' in which each tiny mouse wears a pair of red-framed dark glasses.

This is the 15th annual quilt show, and the third year that Joanne Wilder and Sally Dwyer have served as co-chairs. Founded in 1984, the Capital City Quilters Guild held its first show the following year - all unfinished quilts, some just basted.

This year, all the quilts are finished except for the ones that Wilder, Dwyer and Mary Kay Palmateer are working on. They also spent Saturday demonstrating techniques and answering questions.

Wilder has been quilting for eight years. What intrigues her about this fabric art is ``the beauty of the finished product and the ability to be able to share that with my family, my friends,'' she said, adding, ``Most quilters give away more than they ever keep.''

Although she leans toward traditional designs like the ``Mariner's Compass,'' Wilder has recently been experimenting with stained glass quilts, in which fusable bias outlines each piece. She has used the show to arrange a little surprise for her daughter, Teri. ``For Teri With Love'' includes a guardian angel in its design.

``It's Teri's birthday on Tuesday, and she is just going to discover (her gift) today,'' Wilder said.

Mary Kay Palmateer demonstrated machine quilting, using a mystery quilt pattern from the Internet.

``You get an installment a month,'' she explained. ``The first month may be picking your fabrics. The second, cutting your fabric. About six months into it you find out what the quilt is going to look like. It's a good way to use up scraps without having a preconceived notion of what the quilt will look like.''

Hanging directly across from Palmateer's sewing table was ``Fine China Blue,'' a king-size proof of her skill, all blue and white. The pattern alternates multi-pointed stars and squares. ``It was a pattern I saw and just fell in love with,'' Palmateer said.

Most quilters have day jobs and must carve out leisure time for their hobby. Joanne Wilder looks forward to the Guild's twice-annual, four-day retreats at the Shrine of St. Therese. ``It's non-stop sewing, eating, talking. We sleep only when the lights go out,'' she said.

Sally Dwyer, 45, has been sewing since she was five, quilting for 16 years and teaching for 15.

``My Norwegian grandmas were real avid seamstresses and knitters,'' she said.

Dwyer sews quilts for sale and also designs wall quilt patterns, both of which she markets through Juneau Artists Gallery Ltd. Her patterns include local motifs such as orcas, crabs and ferry boats. Her next pattern will meld Norwegian rose maling with applique. The rose maling effects - tendrils and tear drops traditionally rendered in paint on wood - will be represented by embroidery. She hopes to unveil it at Artshare in Petersburg in the fall.

``Quilting keeps me focused,'' she said. ``My husband travels a lot, and I like to keep busy.''

Dwyer recommends Warm & Natural batting, which shrinks 2 to 3 percent when washed. The shrinkage ``gives a slightly puckered, `I'm an old-fashioned, warm quilt' look'' she finds endearing.

Polar bears, glaciers, icebergs, fireweed, northern lights and skunk cabbage speak of Alaska in some quilts. A favorite of kids Saturday was ``Frogs on the Loose'' by Marj Hansen, a design of Mason jars containing butterflies, trout, bees, ladybugs, and spiders - where frogs leap hither and yon from their uncapped jar.

The four mystery quilts are a show of color contrast. Judy Lentz used black and gold. Heather Brakes used blue and yellow. Cari Spencer chose primary colors, and outlined her children's hands. And Jody Lown chose green, purple and blue on white. All four are queen-size and boast 19 different fabrics.

The free quilt show continues today from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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