A patchwork of storytelling, friendship, quilting - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

A patchwork of storytelling, friendship, quilting

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Stacie Spring is a general assignment reporter for the East Valley Tribune. Contact her at (480) 898-5645 or sspring@evtrib.com

Posted: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 9:58 am | Updated: 12:00 pm, Fri Feb 17, 2012.

On Arizona's hundredth anniversary of statehood, I was able to take part in an old fashioned hobby - quilting - at the Gilbert Historical Museum.

Last week, while researching another story in Gilbert, I had wandered into the museum for a little background information and town history. While I was there, I looked around and found that in one of the rooms of the former schoolhouse, sat over a half dozen women quilting and chatting away.

Started in 2002 as an idea from Blanch Perguson - a longtime Gilbert resident whose daughter volunteers at the museum - the quilting group was created to raise funds for the museum. The women take unfinished quilts, the quilt covers, and add batting and backing for customers. Prices originally started at just $3 a square foot and now have risen to $6 as the group's work has become in demand.

The waiting list for is currently about 38 quilts deep - that's about a two- to four-year wait, Iva Ruth said. But many are willing to wait.

"Some of the quilts are a hundred years old and have been sitting in a closet," she said. "It doesn't matter if they wait a few more years to be finished."

Now ten years after the group's inception, the contingent has expanded to about fifteen regular volunteers, Ruth said.

During the hours the museum is open the ladies meet during their free time to quilt, visit and laugh. Anyone is welcome to join them, they said. Even amateurs like me.

While I grew up sewing outfits and blankets for my dolls and stuffed animals - and even once made a (very inauthentic) Renaissance dress for a class project - my quilting skills are severely lacking. As a child I also refused to learn to use a thimble, despite my Grandma Ev's best efforts.

So with humbleness and a heavy dose of willingness to learn, I joined Ruth, Retta Sparling, Betty Wallford, Darlene Reid, Joan Carroll and Linda Marsh for a morning.

The quilting bee is an integrated part of the home life exhibit room and the ladies who circle each of the two unfinished quilts clearly put the life in "home life."

Much of the chatter centered on family or stories about when they worked or even the other types of crafts they like to do besides quilting. Occasionally, they would talk about different patterns and different stitches, both of which flew right over my head.

Linda showed the group the little pillowcase dresses she is making with her church to send to Uganda and Darlene brought in table runners and aprons she made in the last week to sell at their annual quilting show next month.

We were regularly joined by second grade students from the neighboring elementary school who visited the museum to celebrate the state's centennial. There, Joan Carroll told students about past student visitors, including two boys who took one look at a thimble lying on the quilt, looked at each other and said in unison, "It's like Monopoly."

When another group came in the room, she told the story about two little monkeys jumping on the bed - or, rather, two little boy scouts who jumped on the room's old fashioned bed when no one was looking.

"It's a wonder it didn't collapse in on them," she said laughing.

Others popped in to drop off quilts for the quilt show starting next month. From March 1 through May 31, over 100 quilts will be on display at the museum and quilting demonstrations will take place throughout the three months. The event will culminate on May 31 with a raffle quilt drawing, silent auction of antique quilt tops and other items for sale.

Eventually the conversation led to changes in technology, something that stood in stark contrast to the 30-year-old wooden quilting frame and our age-old task.

I'm glad to report that there are still people out there who like to read their morning paper with their coffee on the couch, instead of a computer desk or tablet reader. And while I have an e-reader myself, it's a hardcover library book in my car right now, not my Kindle.

Sometimes, some things never change.

If you're interested in joining the quilting bee, feel free to stop in at the Gilbert Historical Museum during regular visitor hours, Tuesday through Saturday. For more information about the quilting show, entering quilts and specific demonstrations, call (480) 926-1577 or visit www.gilbertmuseum.org/events/quiltshow.

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