Mtn. View quilt: Stitching up history

Senior quilt celebrates remodeling and residents of apartment house

Posted: Wednesday, March 28, 2001

A quilt two and a half years in the making will be officially unveiled at a Thursday open house and serve as a visual welcome to residents and guests entering the center lobby of Mountain View Apartments.

The 5x7-foot quilt was the brainstorm of Jennifer Klein, Alaska State Housing manager of the senior residence at that time.

"The lobby looked empty. There are 62 apartments here, so many different personalities, that I thought it would be nice to have something that would bring them all together," said Klein, who dropped by Tuesday afternoon to view the finished quilt. "I thought it could remind them of where they lived before, or where they live now."

Klein provided some fabric, and Nancy Babbitt, volunteer sewing coordinator for the center for the past 10 years, instructed residents in sewing, patchwork, crocheting and other techniques needed to address the project.

Still, prodding was needed, and here Agnes Wolfe, 80, a tenant at the center for 15 years, came in.

"Agnes would not let go," Klein said with a smile. The result is a tapestry-like hanging that stretches from floor to ceiling just inside the lobby's glass doors.

In the days of covered wagons, tradition dictated that a girl had to have 13 quilts in her dower chest before she married. Twelve of the quilts were intended for everyday use; the 13th, the most elaborate and saved only for special occasions, was her bridal quilt.

 

Up close: A detail of the quilt to be unveiled Thursday at an open house at Mountain View.

BRIAN WALLACE / THE JUNEAU EMPIRE

The Mountain View quilt follows the special occasion tradition. It is also a medallion quilt - a central panel framed by blocks. In the early 19th century, limited-edition printed panels were often the centerpieces of medallion quilts. The panels would commemorate an event of national importance, such as the Battle of Gettysburg, or bear the portrait of a well-known personage like Abraham Lincoln or Queen Victoria.

In this case, the indefatigable Wolfe created the medallion, an embroidery that shows the facade of the remodeled center, complete with a fantasy of flowery landscaping.

Put together by Babbitt, the quilt's black "sashing," or background, sets off a wide variety of handiwork in the 24 foot-square blocks. Among the motifs are an orange umbrella, butterflies, tulips, and a classical log cabin block. Ruth Willard crocheted her background, and then superimposed embroidery of Tlingit clan symbols Raven and Eagle.

Ilse Davis created a block using a tapestry-like fabric that came from Prussia in the 1800s. Harryet Rappier embroidered a lady in a formal gown, trimmed with lace. LaVerne G. LeBlanc, 92, contributed an Alaska flag, with a placard bearing the words of the Alaska Flag Song.

"I thought it would be appropriate," said LeBlanc, a 50-year resident of Juneau.

One block depicts Alaska puffins. It was made by Arlene Johnson, who has since gone blind, Wolfe said.

"I was very pleased to have three men involved, Paul Emerson, Ted Vadman and 'Petty' Davis," Wolfe said. Emerson edits the senior center's monthly newsletter. Vadman, now retired, was site manager. Davis worked a square of green bargello needlework.

Wolfe thinks of it as "the time and change quilt" because so much has changed since it was begun. One quilter, Martha Perkins, has moved to the Juneau Pioneers' Home. Three - Jean Adams, Ruth Willard and Lenora Johnson - have passed away.

"The idea," said Wolfe, "is to memorialize the transition from the old building to the new building. And to memorialize those who helped make the quilt, and what tenants went through during remodeling."

The Mountain View open house is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday at 895 Twelfth Street. The public is invited.

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.com.



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