It’s an art form born out of necessity. For hundreds of years, women created colorful quilts to keep their families warm. Nowadays, quilts are just as likely to be hung on walls as they are to be thrown across beds.
Next weekend, quilters from around the region will gather at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center to celebrate the artistry of quilts at the 31st annual Spokane Quilt Show.
Sponsored by the Spokane chapter of the Washington State Quilters, the show will promote a downtown treasure with its “Carrousel Centennial” theme. Mari Haworth said she and fellow show organizers have been eagerly awaiting a chance to honor the historic Looff Carrousel’s centennial. According to Haworth, approximately 30 quilters stitched and submitted carousel-themed blocks to the WSQ a year ago. Those blocks were displayed at the 2008 quilt show. “Attendees picked their favorites,” she said.
The top 12 of those blocks were then pieced together to create the 2009 raffle quilt, “Going for the Brass Ring.” The squares include hand-appliquéd horses, an elephant, a seahorse and the well-known Looff crouching tiger, each with a gold pole down the center. “Quilter Laurie Spencer put it together,” said Haworth. Raffle tickets will be sold at the show for $1, and the winning ticket will be drawn at 3 p.m. on Oct. 18.
“Going for the Brass Ring,” will be just one of hundreds of quilts on display. New this year is the Mountain of Quilts. Haworth said her group’s 700 members are trying to complete 700 quilts including lap and baby quilts for this display. “We want to show the community what we do,” she said. “We’ve given away thousands of quilts.”
After the show, the quilts will be distributed to area charities including Sally’s House, Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery and Shriners Hospital. In addition, Haworth said local quilters have created countless Quilts of Valor. These red, white and blue lap quilts are given to wounded soldiers.
One of the show’s most intriguing features is the Art Quilt category. Quilters have recycled and repurposed fabric long before those words became trendy. However, this design classification embraces the green philosophy with gusto. “We create our own patterns,” said Haworth. “We use beads, found objects, even plastic bags – things you’d normally put in your garbage.”
In fact, for her own entry, she discovered inspiration on the street. “I found a pair of glasses that had been run over by a car.” Haworth placed the frames at the top of the quilt and fashioned a face beneath them.
Attendees come to the show ready to look and prepared to learn. Free quilting demonstrations are scheduled each hour, including workshops led by this year’s featured quilters Pam Soliday and Judy Nesbitt.
In 1996, these quilting sisters opened The Buggy Barn, a shop located in a century-old carriage house on Nesbitt’s wheat farm, just outside Reardan.
Avid scrap quilters, Soliday and Nesbitt have developed trademark crazy-quilt patterns that stem from their enjoyment of mixing prints and plaids. Buggy Barn patterns and fabrics embody the sisters’ love of whimsy. With fabric names like “Aunt Mabel’s Mittens” and patterns like Funky Pinwheel and Bunny Trail, the Buggy Barn attracts eager quilters to the heart of Washington wheat country.
Organizers expect large crowds to gather for the Spokane Quilt Show. With a merchant mall and quilter’s boutique, many folks might get a jump start on their Christmas shopping or come away with their own wish list for Santa. And one lucky winner will take home a piece of Carrousel centennial history.