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Picking up speed

Yes, the snow is nearly melted in our valley.  There are still patches under trees and on the north side of the old school house but otherwise we see bare ground, mud puddles and a few spring flowers pushing through.  The women are hard at it trying to get the current quilts finished by the end of April.  That is when things shift for us into the next season.

On April 28, it is Rendezvous in Eureka which mean vendors fill the Historical Village grounds and there is the largest parade of the year down main street.  The old school IMG_2278house will be transformed from the place we quilt all winter into a book sale.  Stop by if you are in town to pick up some great bargains. Then in May school children take their annual trip to visit the museum. We also have a rummage sale, another opportunity for bargains and to get raffle tickets for a lovely quilt we made.  And finally on May 26, the Historical Village announces the summer season.  Everyday until Labor Day, volunteer docents will open all the buildings and are available to provide information to visitors from 1:00 – 5:00pm.

So now we are trying to get the last quilts finished up.  Jana, a guest from the Czech Republic, has been joining us to learn how to quilt and to share her travel adventures with the women as they sew.  Cathryn created a pile of new baby quilts that are perfect to welcome little ones to the world. Sally made some lovely children quilts that are for sale in the museum along with our full size tied quilts and, of course, the beautiful hand quilted ones.  If you are in town for Rendezvous or just ambling through the Historical Village grounds on a sunny afternoon, stop by to learn about our valley’s history and perhaps purchase a quilt to support this remarkable space.

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Thank you Eureka!

This past Friday it snowed. A lot. And it didn’t look good. It wasn’t just the fact that most of us are tired of winter by this point, but the concern that bad roads might hamper people coming to the fundraiser in Trego on Saturday afternoon.  Saturday though dawned better with a bit of sun and so our anticipation became more optimistic.  But you never know do you with these community events if there will be enough people, if its possible to even make the costs of putting the thing on let alone raise funds to help support the Historical Village?  On top of the weather and other unknowns, there were questions about the event itself. We hadn’t really done anything quite like this before. A concert with a band from out of the area (actually The Wardens are from Canada so out of the country!) with a potluck and community jam to follow.  We had decided to do it in Trego because the hall there is so nice with great acoustics and a large kitchen, plus enough space if we did get a real turn out.  But would we? Would people drive from Eureka on snowy roads to support the Historical Village and enjoy this potentially great event?IMG_2226

Al went out early that day to get a fire going so the hall would be warm.  He also plowed the parking lot (thank you so much!).  The band arrived around 1:30 to start setting up.  Quilters and John Linn came a little later to hang quilts and set up tables for selling some handmade items.  With the concert scheduled to begin at 4:00pm, one might hope people would start to show up at 3:30ish but it started very slow.  Finally around 3:45 cars began to pull in and then more cars.  We had to set up extra chairs.  When people were still coming through the door at 4:00, the band decided to start a few minutes late.  What a fabulous turnout!  Over seventy people came to listen to great music, potluck with neighbors and then hang a bit for the jam.  Some people played music, some danced, some talked with friends, some met new people, some tried new foods (Dawn’s outrageous Bhutan momos).

It isn’t only the wonderful turn out but the energy people brought to the event that made it such a great evening.  Lots of laughter and hugs.  We sold a quilt and a box of Mary Louise’s homemade chocolates.  Some folks generously wrote checks to support the Historical Village.  Others asked for information to learn more about the Tobacco Valley Board of History.  And the help that made this all possible!  From John climbing his 10′ ladder to hang quilts to Mike washing dishes and Mircea mopping the floor.  Everyone pitched in to set up chairs and then at the end of the evening, to put chairs away.  Ray got the jam circle going, Ed helped the band carry their things out to the van, Patty and Darrell took trash bags to the dumpsters.  What a special evening…what a special community.  Thank you, Eureka!

Not all quilters are the same

As the women at the Historical Village hand quilt, we realize we are different from those who do machine quilting. We don’t have an attitude about it.  We simply see it as two variations on a theme.  There are those who like to sew patterns by hand and there are those who like to create their magic with a sewing machine.

Despite my six years with the hand quilters, I must admit that was the only dstinction I thought about when it came to quilting. Yes, there were quilts with countless small pieces in intricate designs compared to others that are more traditional log Processed with MOLDIVcabin or bear paw patterns.  As I am fairly new (some of the original quilters in this group began sewing in the old school house back in the1970s), I sew where I am told, the design I am given and try my hardest to make small even stitches.

Then a few weeks back someone suggested we each put together three 12 inch blocks which then could be built into a lovely quilt. Sally went through all our boxes of fabric picking out those she thought went well together.  These were laid out so each of us could take the amount needed for our individual squares. Then the discussion began.  Most of the women examined the fabrics, picked up some of this and some of that, talked about which patterns they would use for their blocks and they were ready  A few brave souls declared they were not going to make blocks, they hadn’t signed on for that.  Period.  And so a few of the block-making talented women said they would each make six blocks to make up the difference.

And then there were two of us who looked like deer caught in the headlights. Make a quilt block?  I hand stitched what I was told to do but now I was expected to actually put together a block of pieces and have them lay flat and have their corners match?  Dianne and I grumbled about it while quilting that day.  But at the end of the day, we both picked up fabric to take home.  After all, this was a project for the Historical Village.  We were adults who had access to YouTube and books. Surely we would mange.

Dianne’s blocks turned out beautifully.  The corners were mitered perfection. She quietly told us the names of the patterns she used.  We sighed in delight. I will admit that I did not use a pattern. I did not even look at a book with suggestions. I did make three blocks. I just started sewing hoping for the best.  When I got to the old school house, I buried my blocks deep in the pile.  But of course when the women went through the pile later to begin laying them out, they found mine which someone kindly called ‘free form’.  Mary Louise told me straight lines and neat corners could be boring.  I felt a bit like a grade school student bringing home art for the refrigerator.

We currently are stitching a couple other quilts. I suspect it will be spring or even the fall before we get around to quilting this one.  I have no doubt it will be lovely though.  And special with most of us represented in our own way and yet part of a larger whole.

 

A touch of blue

This time of year in northwest Montana, any glimpse of blue sky has everyone smiling.  Even while focused on stitching, the women look up in unison when light through the old school house windows gets slightly brighter with a break in the clouds.  January not only brought us a few snatches of sun, but also three new Tobacco Valley Board of History volunteers. Not quite enough for all that needs to be done but certainly a good start.  Magdalena is new to the area and a great fit for helping with displays as she wants to learn more about local history.  Michelle has the energy to help out with the grounds and the shrubbery once we get into spring.  Ya’aqov, a retired librarian, is learning to maintain the archives from Cathryn. And having these three awesome individuals step up, encourages us to think there just might be others in the community who want to help maintain our local heritage.DianneQuilt

Perhaps though people have other ideas about what to do with their spare time? Maybe they see maintaining artifacts, photographs and historical buildings from the Tobacco Valley as frivolous.  Why think about the past when there are sufficient worries for the present? And don’t even mention the future!  But our past has a lot to offer, not only to school children who come each spring to visit the exhibits or the tourists who pass through on summer afternoons, but to all of us.

Some locals lament about lack of business in the area and how the town is going to dry up.  The old newspapers in the Historical Village files tell of the same sentiment numerous times throughout the town’s history. But there has always been something new that came along.  Eureka was once the Christmas tree capital and there was logging.  There were the years when the Libby dam and the train tunnel were built that brought many new people and jobs to this area.  There were opportunities and change and dry spells and then new opportunities appeared.

The files show how the Tobacco Valley News, our local newspaper that still comes out weekly, got started.  There are articles telling about how the valley first got internet and the volunteers who helped set it up.  A computer shop now occupies the building where the office supply store used to be (a business now farther up the road in a larger space), and the same building that used to house the newspaper (which moved behind the bank).  Things change for sure but there are things to be learned from the changes.  How can we make transitions easier?  Where do new ideas for our town come from?  How have great additions to the valley come about in the past?  What can we use from those experiences to continue to make this a place where we want to be?

 

Try a bit harder

The holidays are happening. Snow is starting to pile up. Sidewalks are slippery. Bazaar sales at the Historical Village have gone well although of course we hope there will be last minute shoppers on December 22nd.  Last Friday the quilters had their annual party – a potluck and then gift exchange.  The delicious food put everyone in a sleepy mood but we continued sewing until our usual closing time.  Lynda and Sally even set up a second quilt that we will tie next week, a colorful cotton one Cathryn pieced.  Although I am often content to sit and talk rather than sew, the pace is such that I feel compelled to be as productive as the others (no easy task with this group of women).IMG_1830

As usual we are sewing, talking with any visitors who stop by to drop off something or to buy some lovely handmade item, and discussing how to raise money to cover the Village’s costs, and how to get all the things done from archiving to replacing broken pieces of the boardwalk.  It often feels there isn’t enough time for all we need to accomplish but somehow we still manage to listen to stories about families and friends, laugh at Bev’s jokes and grumble if the needle is not going through as easily as we might like.

Amidst the talk, different quilters talk about other volunteer work they are doing – helping with the Winter Bird Count, the library, the thrift store, the church.  Its amazing how these individuals find time to do all this to make our community as good as possible.  There might be a concern when we don’t see younger people stepping up to help with these projects and really in this case, younger is broad.  We not only think about high school students but adults in their twenties to fifties.  Of course there are volunteers but there never seems to be quite enough.  So we hope some folks out there will put volunteering down as a New Year’s resolution.  Once a week for a few hours surely would mean a lot.

The Place to Shop

Yes, it has been too long.  Quilts have been started and even finished since the last post. And there were some lovely ones. The women are working hard to keep up with the requests – a quilt made from t-shirts a car buff collected, a quilt started thirtysome years ago and pulled out to be finished, a quilt someone made for a person she loves very much.  And now besides quilting every Friday, the women are also hard at it making items for their annual bazaar on December 2nd.  sallyquilt

You won’t want to miss this bazaar.  There are many events happening in Eureka over the first weekend in December but the bazaar at the Historical Village is by far the best.  Handmade baby quilts, aprons, crocheted hats and mittens, tree ornaments, items for your kitchen and items for your bedroom (lovely pillow cases that will be immediately snatched up) are available.  There are the most delicate pine needle baskets made by Cathryn and some of Mary Louise’s hand dipped chocolates for sale.  There will be a raffle for a basket of treats.  Thick and soft flannel quilts hand tied so quite affordable are for sale in colors that call your name.

The prices for these handmade items are definitely within anyone’s budget and besides that – all the proceeds go directly to the Historical Village.  No percentage for this or that, no fees or undisclosed costs.  When you purchase something at the bazaar in the old school house this Saturday, all the money from your purchase helps maintain the Historical Village.  Your Village which keeps the archives and the artifacts and the memories of our valley as well as offering a wonderful place for events like Rendezvous, the Eureka MT Quilt Show and Shakespeare in the Parks.  Do you need any other reason to come to the Historical Village bazaar on Saturday morning?  We open at 9:00am.

Always something

Quilting has started for the season. The women are hard at it sewing on a lovely one that Lynda pieced.  We are getting back into our rhythm sewing together, talk, lunch at noon.  Occasionally one of the women will get up to do a chore. Dianne sorts out the change box and pays bills.  Cathryn catalogs items that are donated to the museum.  IMG_1479Lynda keeps track of the to-do list which seems never ending.  The door to the old school house was recently repaired. We are still hoping for enough funding to fix the caboose which is sadly in need of renovation.  Some of the quilters mention to me there really should be a photo posted of the woman who won the raffle quilt this year.  She is Canadian and a shirt-tail relative of Bev’s.  She came down to Eureka to pick the quilt up, saving us postage and allowing for this great photo in front of the museum (thank you, Bev, for taking it).  Its a lovely quilt and we all remember stitching on it.  Nice to know that it will be appreciated.

And then Gary D. donated an amazing antique quilt to the Historical Village.  After much discuthumbnailssion, it was decided we should have a special raffle for it. Tickets are $5/piece or four for $20.  Dianne took thold quilte quilt to a man who does work with the Antique Roadshow.  He said it was made between 1890-1910 and worth about $650.  Its quite beautiful and the photos don’t do it justice.  The fabrics glow!  We will sell raffle tickets for it until the Eureka Montana Quilt Show in August 2018.  This winter it hangs in a quilt shop in Bigfork and then will come back to Eureka in the summer for the quilt show on August 4th.  A wonderful gesture by Gary to help the Historical Village and a great opportunity for someone to own this lovely piece of history.

It is astonishing how many people reach out to help the Historical Village keep going.  Not only the women who quilt all winter, but those who help with the countless other tasks, people who make donations of items or money, those who give time to help paint or trim bushes or dust displays.  Those who buy raffle tickets! And yes, those who have us finish a quilt for them. I suppose it could be said It takes a village to keep a Village.