The Eureka Montana Quilt Show was a lovely success. And so many generous people bought raffle tickets to support the Historical Village. Of course there were numerous volunteers helping that day to staff the museum, sell tickets and let people know about our raffle items. Lots of efforts made to keep the grounds and the buildings at the Historical Village looking great and maintaining our valley’s history.
A few more busy weeks in summer before the season ends. On August 21, Shakespeare in the Parks will perform Othello at the Historical Village. And the next afternoon, August 22, all the museum docents and Village quilters gather for their annual picnic. Labor Day is the last weekend that the Historical Village museum is open. Then everything in the buildings will be covered over for winter and the quilters begin to meet again every Friday from 10:00 – 3:00 in the old school house.
Just in case you missed purchasing a quilt during the quilt show (can you ever have enough?), we still have a few beautiful ones for sale. Cathryn Schroeder pieced a log cabin quilt in shades of rust and apricot that was then hand quilted by the Tobacco Valley Board of History quilters. And Vivian Vanleishout pieced a beauty in shades of pale green and lilac that was also hand quilted (queen size). Both quilts are available at the Historical Village.
Congratulations to Laura Persson who won the raffle for the Victorian era quilt!
The response to our membership drive has been awesome. Thanks to everyone who sent something towards supporting the Historical Village. Of course it is not too late if your form happens to be still sitting on the kitchen table/desk. Just put it in an envelope with your donation, add our address (Tobacco Valley Board of History at PO Box 1452 Eureka, MT 59917), a stamp and you are good to go.
Hopefully you have seen the Great Northern caboose in the Village. Kenny Westbrook just finished the renovation. It is so beautiful – and much more sturdy then it was before. Children are going to thoroughly enjoy climbing on it this summer. And a few lucky adults will get to sit on the caboose steps to watch Shakespeare in the Parks.
The Village quilters stopped meeting on Fridays for the summer but some of their lovely handwork will be available at the Eureka Montana Quilt Show on August 4. Of course there are other quilts available for sale at the museum gift shop all summer. If you are searching for a unique wedding gift or something special for yourself, you might consider one of the tied quilts which are the perfect combination of beautiful, warm and affordable. Yes, here in northwest Montana, one often needs a quilt on chilly summer nights.
I suppose it is no surprise a tinge of ageism creeps in when quilting with this group of women. Our ages stretch from mid sixties to mid nineties. Besides piecing, hand quilting and putting on bindings, these women also set up wooden quilt frames which are large enough to hold a queen size quilt. They schlep boxes with fabrics and other odds and ends when there is a rummage sale. They schlep boxes of books when there is a book sale. They move furniture around in the museum as needed, set up displays and archive the treasures. They trim bushes on the grounds, pick up trash and shovel snow – whatever the season requires. They keep accounts, run membership campaigns, and sell raffle tickets. They oversee construction projects in the Historical Village and often do some of these projects themselves. Two of the quilters recently helped to replace broken slats in the boardwalk.
When there is work to be done, especially this time of year, we look around at our ranks and wonder where some younger people are. Not so much because we can’t manage, but because it seems there are things young people might learn about maintaining their valley’s heritage and running a museum, picking up skills along the way such as grant writing and chinking an old log building. And this is where ageism slips out, while sitting over the quilt stitching. Remarks are made about ‘those’ people who spend too much screen time, or time constantly checking messages on their phones. Or those people who say they would like to help out but it is just too difficult for them to find time on a Wednesday morning or a Saturday afternoon or any other time when help might be needed at the Historical Village.
Thus that tricky sneer of ageism, the shrug of shoulders, the roll of eyes at the group – those young people – who are summarily dismissed. And of course it isn’t true as of course there are some young people who do make an effort, who do show up. Magdalena, delightfully middle aged, stepped up to help on a regular basis at the museum. Madison, who graduates from high school this June, is bringing a group of her high school friends over next week to weed. But as some of the current quilters started helping at the Historical Village back in the 1970s, they wonder where the young people are who will pick up the torch to carry it forward. And young doesn’t necessarily mean teens or twenties. Middle aged is fine for learning the skills we can teach, or bringing skills already honed. As we keep our eyes open for individuals willing to step up, ready to take the torch, we also are going to try hard not to fall prey to ageism.
We are working on a quilt with a history. I suppose that isn’t so surprising. Many quilts have history. Do you remember that beautiful one made by an elderly quilter from Gee’s Bend? It was pieced from her husband’s old work clothes. She said every time she got under that quilt, she felt as though her husband was still with her.
The quilt we are working on now came from Kentucky. The brother of a friend sent it to me. The women at the Historical Village think the fabrics are from the 1940s. When it arrived in the mail, the top pieced with colored fabric and squares of plain muslin was stiff with age. Bev carefully washed it and washed it, finally getting it to a point where it could be quilted. We found a large piece of muslin for the back. But how to quilt this slightly irregular beauty? The pieced blocks are delicate and also aren’t exactly square. At the same time the colors and patterns are special enough we wanted to do more than simply tie it.
So Cathryn in her wisdom pointed out that we could quilt the plain squares and tie the remainder. What a perfect plan for this unique quilt! A pattern with small hearts was selected. It is a bit slow as the fabric tends to hold the needle but we are getting there. It might be finished by late spring. It is one of those quilts that has a lot of character although who is to say how long it might last. Still it will easily grace whatever bed it ends up on. Hopefully the person sleeping under it will feel cared for.
Doing this quilt is a reminder how it is not always necessary to stick with the usual plan. Sometimes a dilemma presents itself that requires creative thinking. The solution doesn’t have to be !00% of this. It could be 81% of this and 12% of that and 7% of something else, still getting the job done well. Somebody might have looked at this particular quilt top and thought it wasn’t worth saving for much of anything. But as we quilt and tie it, the women remark on the fabrics and interesting piecing. We figured out a solution and are making it work. Yes indeed, it’s a beauty.
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 cabin 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.
Late winter in this part of Montana can be gray. And once we move from constant snow to snow with mud, that grayness feels even more difficult to endure. Which is why the Historical Village volunteers had the great idea to have a late winter community event that promises to rock your socks and raise some funds for maintaining the Village.
On March 3rd, The Wardens play at the Trego Hall starting at 4pm. An easy time of day to drive out and catch this great band from Canmore, Canada. Up in those parts, a ranger is called a warden. These three musicians/wardens have worked in the back country around Banff for a lot of years so know mountains and horses as well as music. Admission for the concert is $8/per with tickets on sale at the door.
We figured once folks come out to Trego to hear good music, they might just want to stay and enjoy themselves a bit longer. There will be a potluck after the concert (starting around 5:30) and then a music jam. Ray and Shirley Jacobs met The Wardens recently and encouraged us to bring them to Eureka. They will be there. Hope you are too. If you want a preview of The Wardens, check out their website here.
So mark March 3rd on your calendar and come out for a good time. Bring a dish to pass if you want to stay for the potluck, and if you play music then please bring your instrument along. Otherwise come to listen and enjoy this late winter treat. Oh, and there will be beautiful handmade quilts for sale as well.
This quilt wasn’t made by the women at the Historical Village. It was actually created by Patty, another wonderful quilter, who lives here in the valley. She must have quilting in her blood as she gets second hand clothes from various places, figures out a pattern that she likes, cuts up the clothing and begins to sew. I am always amazed at what she comes up with. This particular quilt she made as a donation to help refugees. Each time it was taken out to be shown at a fundraising effort, people sighed with delight.
The last time I took it out of a bag, it was to box it up at the post office. The quilt was about to be sent off to its new home and for whatever reason I always seem to do my boxing up at the post office on their counter. Two women in line watched me and when I shook the quilt out to fold it up as small as possible (a trick with a double bed quilt), they exclaimed simultaneously how beautiful it was. I agreed. One woman lamented that she always wanted to learn to quilt but had never had the chance to try. I pointed out she could easily join the Friday quilters at the Historical Village. They would be happy to teach her the joys of hand quilting. There are other quilt guilds in town that would be glad to mentor her along as well. But she had reasons – Friday’s weren’t the best day and she didn’t know if her sewing machine worked and besides where could she spread out a project like a quilt in her house.
There are always reasons aren’t there? Reasons why we can’t study Spanish or call up that older friend we think about. Reasons why we aren’t able to volunteer or clean out the top of the closet. Of course sometimes the reason makes sense. But often times we find ourselves justifying why we can’t do something that part of us really would like to do.
Rather than focus on all the reasons one can’t do something, this quilt made me aware of what we can do. Patty finds the used fabric and inspiration to make quilts. This particular one helped support a family who had the gumption to come to a new country. There is a friend in town who decided to learn Spanish so he bought some CDs, a bilingual dictionary and some books. I must admit I had my doubts about this self-teaching method until a few years later when I heard him converse in Spanish with a musician visiting from Mexico. There’s Bernice Ende, another friend from the valley, who has been a long rider for years now. She rides a horse across to all parts of the US. She tells me she can’t keep track of all the people who say they would like to do what she does. But they don’t. Sometimes their reasons make sense. They have young children at home or need to be available for aging parents. But sometime their reasons are downright flimsy.
So when you hear someone say with sincerity that he or she really wants to do something, tell them – you can! Push aside all the thin reasons they might offer up as to why they can’t. Encourage them to climb on that horse or pick up CDs to learn Russian or walk into the Historical Village on a Friday ready to learn how to quilt. Our world needs people who follow their dreams. Turn those dreams into realities. Yes, you can.