Some are clever when it comes to dodging the limelight and four members of Mountain Star Quilters finally got caught after some thirty-odd years of success. Most in the group have served as featured quilters at the guild's quilt shows by now, so Tammy Helm, Linda Frost, Bette Jo Lang and Mary Weight finally got nailed. It's really more a hostess-ing job than pretending you're a celebrity, so the four will be on board at the quilt show next weekend (Oct 3 and 4) to greet aficionados and share stories of trials, errors, successes resources and techniques. Of course, each will bring examples of her efforts as part of the guild's display.
One of them---Tammy Helm---got into quilting inadvertently. She and her husband Mark have a B and B in Goodyear's Bar. In the late 90's, the guild needed a place to hold their annual "Mystery Quilt Weekend" wherein each member comes with a collection of fabrics cut to certain specifications. Directions are then doled out a page at a time, and the overall design of each member's quilt isn't revealed until the very end. Tammy didn't participate the first year this event moved to her place---but it looked like fun and the second year, she did although she had never quilted before. Several members taught her the basics during that weekend, and she was hooked!
Presently. Tammy likes to applique smaller pieces,although she still makes (or starts) a mystery quilt each spring; by summertime she's busy with the B and B until well into September. She's finished a couple of quilts for her grandchildren and when her husband walks through a room while she's sewing, he often says "Is that mine?" Her first quilts were tied rather than quilted. She finds the actual sewing together of all those little pieces wonderfully pleasant and calming, as opposed to cutting out or choosing colors or even finishing.
Linda Frost has an entirely different favorite step. She likes to get all her accumulation of fabrics and spread them out across the floor and see what colors seem to look wonderful with certain others and then shop for a shade that seems to be missing. That's a favorite activity, but there is also the moment when a quilt is far enough along that you can get an inkling of what it will look like when finished.
Unfortunately, Linda won't be at the show this year, as some 50 members of her family are having a long-planned reunion in Sandwich, Mass., then. She feels a certain kinship with the theme of this year's Civil War era raffle quilt.She remembers her great grandmother who told of Harriet Beecher Stowe (writer of "Uncle Tom's Cabin") coming to their church to talk....and of course everyone singing "Battle Hymn of the Republic".
Linda was among the mid-eighties founding group of quilters spear-headed by Barbara Davies although she had made quilts previously on her own. Before there was a club, several women all of whom practiced one craft or another, got together and had work sessions, each making progress on her own project. To this day, she misses that experience and wishes we had more visiting/gossiping/work parties with communing rather that output being the focus. Recently retired after 20 years with the county assessor's office, she feels the absence of human interaction a job entails, although her friendships are plentiful and flung far and wide.
She made quilts for her sons when they were little, and now each has received a more grown-up type. Six nieces and nephews and some in-laws have managed to consume much of her output although she has at least five UFO's, meaning UnFinished Objects. She prefers to work on pieced quilts rather than appliqued ones but mostly, she simply enjoys being a member of a wonderful group of people with a common interest.
Bette Jo Lang is the one who, along with Tammy Helm, chooses what the mystery quilt is to be, and they are tight-lipped on the subject while dealing out the clues each spring. She made all her quilts entirely by hand in the beginning, the reason being she really, really hated her sewing machine. This worked out well, since Barbara Davies, The one who launched Downievilles quilting craft back in the eighties, always had beginners start by making their own patterns out of cut-up cereal boxes, marking seam lines on fabric with a pencil, and then stitching by hand.
Later on, Bette Jo did acquire a sewing machine that worked to her liking---a good thing, since she and her husband Frank have three sons and numerous grandchildren, all of whom have beneficiaries of mystery quilts. When young, sons receive baby quilts; later a graduation is the requirement. That's a lot of graduating since one son is a doctor, one a lawyer and the third an atmospheric physicist. The result of all this is, Bette Jo has only one UFO."Of course", She says, "I have a lot of things I just haven't started yet!"
The aspect of quilting Bette Jo likes best is choosing the colors that best suit the recipient-to-be (she does have a slight edge there). The real appeal is the logic of it all---everything is geometric---octagons, triangles, hexagons and squares. This is understandable for one who was a surgical nurse as precision is important to both areas. It does not explain her stage presence and talent for acting, particularly if a bit of humor is required. The parts she has played in local production have proven both memorable and hilarious.
Tammy may like sewing little pieces together, Linda to amuse herself by playing with colors and Bette Jo may enjoy the logic of it all; but Mary Wright is just plain in love with a technique called paper foundation piecing. It began when she took a class on the internet taught by Carol Doakes who has written several books on the subject. Mary followed this up by taking a live class resulting in a quilt called "Christmas Pickle", which she will display in the upcoming show.
Another quilt Mary will show may never have seen the light of day, as it was lost for five years. She even accused her husband Allen of taking it to the dump, as she often stores quilts in large trash bags, and thought he might have included it with the rest of the discards. One day she was on a ladder looking in a high closet for some cotton batting, saw what looked to be s large roll of it, opened it out and voila! There was her missing quilt.
Mary says the reason she loves being a member of Mountain Star is that others are always coming up with new techniques and ideas that are fun to explore. She has just taken up appliqued wool felting, which involves a whole new world of colorful thread types.
One wonders when Mary has time to sleep, as she is Coordinator for the Sierra County Child Care Council, putting some 300 miles a month on her car just going to meetings. Even so she's had time to make quilts for her two grown children, two grandsons, other relatives and an old high school buddy that turned up one day.
"We miss those who helped us as beginners---Claire McDermid, Nadine Breed and Effa Jean Arms; some have moved away like Jo An Cochran, Pat Lawrence and Beatyanne Rasmussen. This year marks our 31st annual October event, and it's really an accomplishment to have dodged the "featured quilter" job for all this time!"
Mountain Star Quilters' Show begins Saturday, October 3 from 10 am to 5 pm. On Sunday the hours are 10 am to 4 pm. Drawing for the opportunity quilt will be at 3 pm Sunday. Admission is $5.00. Downstairs in the Downieville Community Hall will be devoted to vendors; the show of quilts including the Hoffman Challenge exhibit will be upstairs.
Tickets for the opportunity drawing of the Civil War era quilt are available at the Gallery in Sierra City this weekend and next weekend in Downieville at the show.