WENATCHEE — Anyone who wandered around the Town Toyota Center on Friday or Saturday to look at some of the 270 quilts filling the walls around the ice arena would know that quilting has come a long way.
The beautiful patterns that our grandmothers lovingly stitched are still here. But a lot more has happened since quilting made a comeback over the last few decades.
“In the last five years, it’s evolving more and more into art quilts,” said Louise Brown, who chaired the North Central Washington Quilt Guild’s Harvest of Quilts. “These are not grandma’s quilts, by any means, anymore,” she said.
From contemporary designs to embroidered and embellished works of art, quilting has joined the world of modern art.
Most of the pieces hanging in the 29th annual Harvest of Quilts were created by some of the guild’s 250 members, and from their invited guests of the Odessa Quilt Club. Featured guest artist Barbara Vincent had 25 or 30 large and small quilts that were highlighted this year.
The event also included vendors and demonstrations ranging from Japanese and Swedish embroidery and how to add embellishments, to using a home machine to quilt, or preparing a quilt for a “long-armer.”
A long arm is the kind of sewing machine with a long arm that allows the quilter to stitch large patterns, Brown explained. “More and more people are starting to machine quilt, and a number of them are being quilted by what we call long-armers. They do it as a profession, basically,” the longtime quilter said.
Brown said the use of long arms, and availability of long-armers has changed quilting. “It used to be it would take you a year to finish that big quilt. But now, you’re just doing the top,” she explained. You can hire someone else to do the tedious work of quilting the top, fill and bottom pieces together.
That leaves more time to create beautiful tops. “The machine quilts people are doing now, they’re just spectacular,” she said. “With the long arm, you’ve got all this space. It’s like drawing with thread.”
Of course, not everyone has made the switch. “We’ve got a couple of people — that’s all they do is hand-quilt. And it’s gorgeous,” she said.
Brown said she does both. “If I’m using it for every day, I’m not going to hand-quilt,” she said. But for special projects, she may return to the age-old practice of hand quilting.
A founding members of the local guild, Brown said the group meets monthly to quilt together. They make quilts for several different groups to give to people in need, or those with illnesses or who’ve lost homes.
Their sponsors — Andrew’s Sew and Vac, Columbia Heights and Faithsteps Housecleaning — helped pay for this event that attracts some 900 attendees.
Brown said the Harvest of Quilts has grown significantly over 29 years. The first one was held at the YWCA, and its purpose was to find out if other quilters in the area wanted to start getting together to quilt. They did, and so the guild was born. This event has been held in various locations over the years. “We were slowly outgrowing them,” Brown said.
Six years ago, it finally outgrew the basement of the Convention Center when remodeling took away the large space there. So the Harvest of Quilts became Town Toyota Center’s very first event in 2006.
Brown said she doesn’t expect to ever outgrow the Town Toyota Center. “Every year, I don’t think they could be any better, and then they are,” she said. If you missed it, you’ll just have to wait for their 30th annual event, next year.