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 house 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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. Lynda 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 discussion, it was decided we should have a special raffle for it. Tickets are $5/piece or four for $20. Dianne took the 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.
The quilters drew the lucky raffle winner at the Lincoln County Fair on August 27th. A Canadian woman won the beautifully pieced quilt and will pick it up this week. Thanks to all of you who bought raffle tickets. It is one of the many ways we work to pay the bills to maintain the Historical Village. Also at the end of August, the Historical Village was awarded a grant from the Tobacco Valley Community Foundation. What a wonderful gift to help us cover the expenses we incurred this past summer including chinking one of the old cabins and painting a building. And on September 9, the quilters will have their annual Fall Rummage Sale at the old school house from 10:00am – 3:00pm. Some great treasures and, of course, all proceeds go towards the Historical Village. Stop by to purchase something you need and/or to talk with the women. The following Friday, September 15, the quilting season officially starts for the year. It is open to anyone who has time on Fridays. Even if you haven’t sewn before, we are happy to show you how. Many of us started out as true beginners and are now addicted to showing up every Friday to stitch. Bring a bag lunch and drop by anytime between 10:00am – 3:00pm. We will even supply you with a needle and scissors to begin this new passion.
Perhaps you are seriously considering coming by on a Friday to quilt with us – or to learn how to quilt. You study the photos that are part of this blog and notice how agreeable the women look who are sewing. But then the balloons on the quilt catch your eye and you wonder what they are used for. Has there been a recent birthday party? Are the quilters prepared to fill them with water to deter anyone from littering on the Historical Village grounds? No, the balloons are actually used for quilting. Sometimes it is difficult to pull a needle through multiple layers of fabric and batting. When it becomes a challenge, a balloon placed around the needle gives the quilter that extra leverage to pull the needle through.