Christy Saylor, left, demonstrates how to do a charm quilt on point for Treasure Valley Quiltmakers club members at a meeting in October. The club meets the third Thursday of every month. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)
ONTARIO – When Carolyn Ward was about to retire as office manager of Nyssa High School a few years ago, she was looking for a hobby to fill her time. A friend recommended the Treasure Valley Quiltmakers club.
Ward had no experience with quilting, but she tried it.
“I did it and I fell in love,” said Ward. “It’s like painting in a way, because you’re putting all these colors together to make a visual.”
Since the early 1980s, the club has met inside St. Paul Lutheran Church in Ontario. Every third Thursday of the month, roughly 20 members from all over the Treasure Valley gather to talk quilts.
“We’re all at different stages in quilting,” said longtime member Gayle Franklin. “Learning from each other is a huge part of it.”
The quilts they make together have been donated to charity and to families whose homes have been lost to fire. Next month the club will raffle off a quilt they made to raise funds for more fabric and supplies.
“There’s a purpose for every quilt,” said Julie Bunker, a member for so long that she can’t even tell you how many years.
Bunker, who learned quilting from her grandmother, made her first quilt at age 15. It was a patchwork quilt worn out long ago.
Like the other ladies in the group, Bunker can tell you all kinds of neat things about quilts. For instance, every quilt has a name, and every pattern, too.
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Inside St. Paul’s, several quilts hang on the walls like artworks in a museum. The pieces show off patterns such as the Martha Washington Star and the Log Cabin.
Inside the St. Paul kitchen, members gather round the club’s vice president Christy Saylor as she demonstrates how to make a charm quilt on point. As someone turns on the oven to heat the potluck lunch that follows every meeting, Saylor walks members through a tutorial, cutting and measuring a colorful unfinished quilt top made from leftover patches.
The ladies marvel at the end result, the colors fit just so. An eye for detail characterizes a lot of the club members.
“I can’t paint, but I can create with fabric,” said Susan Mabey, a member for over 10 years. At Mabey’s home, quilts hang all over.
“What was once a necessity, is now an art form,” said Joan Church, who’s been a member since the early 2000s.
Both her daughters quilt. They both have long arms, Church joked.
Saylor, who’s been quilting since childhood, said her two granddaughters picked up the hobby as toddlers inside her sewing room. One granddaughter, now 14, is on the Autism spectrum, and Saylor said quilting has been beneficial for her. The teenager won her first blue ribbon at the Payette County Fair when she was 9 and according to Saylor is a whiz on the treadle – the old school sewing machines that even the ladies in the club have forsaken in favor of electric ones.
It’s proof that quilting is not dying, said Franklin. If anything, the audience for it is simply changing, she added.
“I’d say 15% of quiltmakers nowadays are men,” Franklin estimated.
Despite the work that goes into them, the ladies at the club agreed that quilts may be special, but they’re made to be used.
“My kids have them with the stipulation that they have to be used,” said Saylor, who tells her kids: “If you wear it out, I’ll make you another one.”
Have a news tip? Reporter Yadira Lopez: [email protected] or 541-473-3377
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